‘Fr. Oprah’ has become a bore, not some noble man fighting the evil Church

  • February 9, 2011

Alberto Cutié is back — not that he really ever went away. He has a small Episcopal parish here in Miami, and is flogging his new book, getting ready for his own TV show.

You remember Fr. Oprah, no? Ordained for the archdiocese of Miami in 1995, the photogenic and bilingually articulate priest developed a successful radio and television ministry, becoming something of a Latino celebrity — hence the nickname. In May 2009 a tabloid newspaper published photographs of Cutié on the beach with his mistress, conducting himself in a manner contrary to his priestly promises.

A scandal erupted, Fr. Cutié hit the morning talk shows to speak of his sorrow and the need to take time to examine how to repair the damage he had done. After a solid two weeks out of the studio, Cutié emerged to a highly publicized reception into the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Anglican Communion). A month later he married his mistress, subsequently became an Episcopal priest and has now written a book about it all.

At the time the tale was so tawdry that I let it pass. It was also impossible to comment on the story without drawing attention to the rather desperate state of the Episcopal Church, whose Miami bishop would rejoice over such a convenient conversion, the proximate cause of which was public infidelity. While more spectacular than similar stories, Cutié’s tale was not unique — there are more than a few Catholic priests who, seeking to escape the promises they freely made, have sought refuge in Anglicanism.

Yet now that Cutié is back on the morning talk shows, complaining about how beastly the Catholic Church has been to him, perhaps a word should be said. A priest who takes a mistress is no different than a married man who does the same; indeed, given the grace of ordination and the frequent nourishment of the Mass, one might consider it a greater betrayal. A betrayal it remains, and men of the cloth are not immune from it. The path of repentance and conversion and holiness is open to them too, should they seek it. Yet the priest who has a clandestine mistress and then, when exposed, claims to be the wronged party is no different than the man who abandons his family for another woman and then blames his wife. Cutié should be ashamed — not that he fell in love with a woman, as men do — but that he was neither man enough to keep his promises, nor to truly repent for his sin.

Now that he is a married Episcopal priest, one hopes for the sake of Mrs. Cutié that he is better able to keep his latest set of lifetime commitments. But if he doesn’t, on what grounds will his wife, or congregation, or bishop, frown upon another infidelity, having publicly celebrated the first one?

This week Cutié wrote an article in which he mentioned that some people have been sending him nasty letters — a rather routine part of being a public figure, I would think.

“All of this has led me to confirm that religious extremists are not only a small group of people associated to (sic) Islam,” Cutié wrote for the Huffington Post. “Instead, intolerant views and verbal threats by some Roman Catholic extremists that I have received rival any monopoly by Muslim radicals.”

Comparing the rough and tumble of public criticism to the actual massacre of Christians by Islamist radicals is absurd. It is unworthy of a Christian pastor. The line though is telling, for it reveals that Cutié has lost more than his Catholic faith; he has lost his bearings entirely.

Alberto Cutié likes to present himself as a victim — the poor fellow who was driven into a double life of deceit and for his sins had to suffer a rapturous reception by the Episcopal Church, a television show and a book contract. He thinks of himself as a victim too, not unlike the martyrs. Fr. Oprah, indeed.

No doubt he aspires to salvage something noble out the wreckage of his failures. Yet there is nothing noble about his story. His is not a deep interior struggle to find the truth and live in accord with it, no matter the consequences. His is the rather banal tale of a man who strayed and was too weak to find his way back.

He wrote this week of his desire for a “healthy debate” on celibacy, contraception and divorce. Of course! Another ex-Catholic who wants to talk about sex. Cutié has become a bore. Sin — as C.S. Lewis, a truly noble Anglican told us — always is.

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