Controversial Rev. Cutié joins Episcopal Church

Updated with news links and CNN video.

The Miami Herald reports:

The Rev. Alberto Cutié (KOO’-tee-ay), the celebrity priest removed from his Miami Beach church after photos of him kissing and embracing a woman appeared in the pages of a Spanish-language magazine earlier this month, will leave the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami to join the Episcopal church.

The small and private ceremony will happen early Thursday afternoon at Trinity Cathedral, the church’s South Florida headquarters in downtown Miami. Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, will officiate. ….

Cutié will initially be a lay person in the Episcopal church … not a priest. The process of a Catholic priest becoming an Episcopal priest takes at least a year, experts say.

While not having the same authority as a priest, Bishop Frade plans to give Cutié special status as a lay minister, meaning he can preach in Episcopal churches but not celebrate the Eucharist, the symbolic body and blood of Christ.


(Editor’s note in the last paragraph that the writer means that Cutié will not have the same authority as a priest, but what he has written is that Frade does not have the same authority as a priest.)

The AP and CNN are on the story. To read the Diocese of Southeast Florida’s press release, click Read more.

Anybody else have mixed feelings about this? One can oppose mandatory priestly celibacy and still feel uneasy about the Rev. Cutié jumping so quickly and publicly to new ministry in a new church after being caught in the act of breaking his ordination vows. No?

Press release from the Diocese of Southeast Flordia

FATHER ALBERTO CUTIÉ JOINS THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Cutié to preach at May 31 mass at Church of the Resurrection

Press Conference Today – Thursday, May 28 at 2:30 PM

The Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

525 NE 15 Street, Downtown Miami

(located across from the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay on North Bayshore Drive)

Miami, May 28, 2009 — Bishop Leo Frade, Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida and Senior Bishop of the House of Episcopal Bishops, announced today that Father Alberto Cutié, a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, has become a member of the Episcopal Church and will pursue the priesthood.

Father Alberto was received into the church earlier today at Trinity Cathedral, the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. Formerly Priest-in-Charge of St. Francis de Sales Church in Miami Beach and the Director of Catholic Radio, Father Alberto, after a two year discernment process, decided to begin his ministry and the path to priesthood within the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is a reconciling community, welcoming all who seek to know and be assured of God’s accepting and transforming love. Walking midway between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions, the Episcopal Church is a faith community that emphasizes sacramental worship and promotes thoughtful debate about what God is calling us to do and be as followers of Christ.

“We welcome Father Alberto into the ministry of the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Frade. “Our ministry has centered on spiritual growth, love, forgiveness, and a sense of community. Guided by a spirit of fellowship and understanding, the Episcopal Church remains a beacon of hope and faith for all.”

“I thank God for the many people in our community who have shown me their love and support,” stated Father Alberto. “Your prayers have truly sustained me at this time of transition in my life. With God’s help, I hope to continue priestly ministry and service in my new spiritual home.”

In welcoming Father Alberto, Bishop Frade notes that Father Alberto’s bilingual skills, evangelical voice, and cultural sensitivities are a natural fit to the Diocesan and community needs. “We believe Father Alberto has much to offer those in our church,” added the Bishop.

Father Alberto will assist Archdeacons Tom Bruttell, Bryan Hobbs and Fritz Bazin in their continuing work in the revitalization of the Diocese. Specifically, he will work with the Archdeacons on a special initiative by the Bishop providing emergency responses to Episcopal Churches in urgent need. This Diocesan initiative calls on Episcopalians to rally around a specific church and help fellow congregants work to restore it.

The first focus will be Church of the Resurrection at 11173 Griffing Blvd. in Biscayne Park, Florida. To launch the initiative, Father Alberto will deliver the sermon this Sunday, May 31 at Church of Resurrection beginning at 10:00 a.m.

As the slogan of the Episcopal Church aptly states, “All Are Welcome!” Keep the Faith!

Category : The Lead

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38 Comments
  1. David Allen |dah • veed|

    Jim, OCICBW, but this was explained to me by a Roman diocesan priest, if Father Cutié is a Roman diocesan priest he took no vow of celibacy. Those are just the rules by which they are expected/required to live. He did take a vow of obedience. That is the one he appears to have broken.

  2. However you phrase it, this guy bolted his church for ours only after he got caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. I am uncomfortable with that.

  3. Nick Wolfe

    I understand the discomfort, but it seems to me that Fr. Alberto can be a vehicle to deliver the message that one can love another human being and serve God in ordained ministry. We have too many religious authorities laying down rules that end up reducing love, and as a consequence, reducing the experience of God’s love. Fr. Alberto opens the possibility that the opposite message–one that we stand for as Episcopalians–can get a much wider audience. Being fully human (including loving another) is not in conflict with carrying out God’s will. I think that that’s really important.

  4. BSnyder

    I find it another annoying example of clericalism in the Episcopal Church. And yes, I agree that disobedience to one’s vows ought to be repented of – not rewarded with a pulpit.

    Guess what happens if us hoi polloi disobey the rules of our professions? (Hint: We get fired, pal, not promoted.)

  5. Matthew Buterbaugh+

    We all have our reasons for finding God and changing our relationship with that God. Rarely are these reasons something to be proud of. Those of us in the Episcopal Church should be proud that we are in a place that promotes Grace and healing. I personally am happy that Fr. Cutié found grace in our corner of the Kingdom. Padre, desde un clero sanado por la gracia de Dios a otro, bienvenido a la Iglesia Episcopal.

  6. toujours

    People are making the assumption that this is a simple transfer and he is just changing credentials, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There are processes clergy ordained in other denominations have to go through before they are allowed to function as clergy in the TEC.

    His is the most publicized case, but it’s not that unique. Our new Bishop of Long Island was a former RCC priest who transferred when he fell in love. It’s pretty common actually.

    Daniel Sloan

  7. Matthew, I guess if I was certain that this was driven by grace rather than by convenience I would feel better about it, but I don’t know how we can know that. I don’t know enough about this situation to say I am opposed to what has happened, but I am skeptical, and as a media relations guy, I have to say that it isn’t necessarily playing very well for us nationally–although the reality on the ground in Miami may be quite different.

  8. Matthew Buterbaugh+

    Jim,

    There’s no such thing as bad press. Frankly, I’m just glad we’re getting press that’s not about San Joaquin or +Bp. Robinson. Even if this is simply out of convenience, there’s still an awful lot of room for grace to happen.

  9. Brendan Behan notwithstanding, there is such a thing as bad press. This isn’t quite McGreevey-like, but it doesn’t help, nationally, although, as I say, it may in south Florida.

  10. Priscilla Cardinale

    I welcome Fr. Cutie and any other human being who wishes to seek God in TEC for whatever reason.

    It is certainly not my job to judge the hearts or motives of my fellow Christians nor is it my place to worry about the “fallout” of sinners entering the Church nor how it may be received by nonmembers — that seems beside the point, if not entirely behind it, to me.

    “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” seems to be more than a slogan, perhaps an actual way of believing and living the Kingdom of God?

    I’m all for radical welcome of all God’s people myself. And I wish Fr. Cutie and his fiancee well in all that they do and may God bless them richly in their new life together and in their new Church family. May we all enjoy such welcome and equality in the near future!

    Priscilla Cardinale

  11. PatrickC

    I have no problem with his move, but it should be made more clear than perhaps it has been that he must undertake a period of discernment after his reception before being considered for priestly ministry.

    By the way, unless I missed something, the statement doesn’t say anything about him marrying his girlfriend.

    Patrick Coleman

  12. David Allen |dah • veed|

    Jim, according to the press release this has been a two year discernment process. Perhaps the photo outing was the final push. But Bishop Frade seems to know the man, at least well enough to already have a path laid out for where he will be used in ministry over this next year.

  13. Well, we accepted Matthew Fox when he couldn’t follow his vows of obedience. We have a priest in California who’s a rehabilitated felon, and a deacon in Louisiana who’s still in prison. While not us, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) ordained as an elder a rehabilitated murderer. I think it’s important that he function in the Church in a lay role for the appropriate time; but we can accept him if he, too, is rehabilitated of mishandling a realization that he isn’t called to celibacy.

    As for repentance: if his repentance is good enough for Bishop Frade, I can allow it to be good enough for me. More might be made of it in public; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in private.

    Marshall Scott

  14. Peter Pearson

    Welcome brother. May God bring unexpected blessings to you and to us. Three cheers for the Episcopal Church!

  15. BSnyder

    I welcome Fr. Cutie and any other human being who wishes to seek God in TEC for whatever reason.

    And so does everybody else. The question being asked is, why can’t he act like “everybody else,” instead of immediately getting on the preaching rota? If you did the same thing, believe me: nobody would be asking you to preach. That’s because you’re a layperson – the status Fr. Cutie should have, too, but doesn’t.

    It’s just the old boys’ network, dressed up in a brand new outfit.

  16. Christopher Barajas

    I was reticent to respond negatively about this, but after reading a few more articles about Cutié and his “discernment process,” it leaves me wondering.

    He supposedly has been thinking about leaving the Roman Catholic Church for two years, which turns out to roughly be the term of his ongoing relationship. However, this revelation was a shock to his congregation and his archbishop. Not to mention that the ball only got rolling after his dismissal from his ministries at the RCC. How much longer could this have gone on, had an eagle-eyed tabloid photographer not recognized him?

    I would hesitate to have anyone be fast-tracked for ordained servant ministry, especially when “Keeping the Faith,” as the Diocese of Southeast Florida is claiming, was one of the least things that Cutié had done during his time as a Roman Catholic in hiding this behavior until is was made public. Perhaps these last two years should have been done in lay ministry, or at least outside the bounds of his ordination vows, as opposed to subverting them (he called his actions “wrong,” though he did say he confessed — to whom?).

    BSnyder, it may be worthwhile to hear him preach; laypersons do it at quite a few parishes I’ve been to, albeit infrequently. It may serve well to understand exactly how we can help him keep the faith as a newly-received Episcopalian — I would much rather a sermon or a letter to the community, rather than trying to read between the lines of a morning talk show.

  17. I agree with both Jim and BSnyder. There’s nothing demeaning about being a layperson and, in fact, I think it’s very good experience for someone entering a new ecclesial body.

  18. ATGerns

    Actually, the press report mangled the process that is taking place. Fr. Cutie was recieved into this church. As of now, while his orders are considered valid, he is not licensed to function as a priest.

    He will, according to the process of his diocese, enter into a discernment and formation program before he is received as a priest. Our canons now clarify this process. The reception of his orders is not automatic upon his becoming an Episcopalian.

    For all intents and purposes he is functioning as a layperson until that process is done.

    Obviously, his Bishop has given him permission to preach (and we don’t know if he has a license to preach beyond the advertised event which could–but does not have to–come later) but this is something that the bishop can do at anytime and for any one the Bishop chooses.

    Andrew Gerns

  19. BOBM

    The load of comments says just about everything that needs to be said. As a retired priest of the Diocese of SE Florida, one add’l observation. Recently Bishop Frade announced a new program to rescue troubled congregations from closure, calling upon other clergy and congregations to join in a rescue effort, beginning with Church of the Resurrection where the Bishop had annoounced he would begin the process as celebrant on Pentecost. It is at that occasion that Alberto has been invited to preach. The bishop also said in his releases that the timing of the reception was due to fast moving events in the media and local community. My personal position is that of Gameliel at this point. Bob McCloskey

  20. Bob,

    Thanks so much for this local context. It is extremely helpful and puts things in a more favorable light, at least in my opinion.

  21. Glad to shed some further light, Jim. From the various reports and press releases it also appears that conversations with Bishop Frade had been going on long before the media got hold of Alberto’s love interest, and long before the bishop publicly said he would be delighted to welcome him into TEC.

    Either Alberto, or the media, or both have referred to his friend as his fiancee, contrary to some of the insulting comments made about her. I would not be surprised if Bishop Leo officiates when the time comes.

    One thing I know for sure: Leo Frade is a unique bishop keenly commited to his Cuban people and ever the maverick. Some are too young to remember the young priest Leo, commandeering a boat from Miami to Cuba, assisting in the Mariel boat lift and proudly flying the Episcopal Church flag. To this day some old Miamians [incl. some Episcopalians] recall with disfavor his initiative. I think it was terrific, but then he and Joe Doss carved out quite a ministry in New Orleans in their day, too. I don’t agree with him on every position but I admire and respect him and value his courage and am proud to have him as my bishop, even in retirement and separated by distance, as we now live in the North Carolina mountains.

    Thanks. Bob McCloskey

  22. BSnyder

    BSnyder, it may be worthwhile to hear him preach; laypersons do it at quite a few parishes I’ve been to, albeit infrequently. It may serve well to understand exactly how we can help him keep the faith as a newly-received Episcopalian — I would much rather a sermon or a letter to the community, rather than trying to read between the lines of a morning talk show.

    Why can’t he just be one of the folks and sit quietly in a pew at this point? It would actually say far, far more to the world than either “a sermon or a letter to the community” or “a morning talk show.” He really doesn’t have to be a celebrity, you know.

    Why the need for hype of any kind? Is there some reason he can’t just sit and learn about his new church, just as the rest of us do when we first join it?

  23. David Allen |dah • veed|

    I am surprised at the responses of some of you armchair experts and the snarkiness of your comments.

    Unless there are photos of a more intimate nature, or someone is privy to his confession, or someone has access to his bedroom, some folks are making assumptions as to whether Father Cutié has broken any rule of celibacy. He may well be guilty of falling in love and being as affectionate as the fotos show, and no more.

    I know nothing about the RC in Miami, but I have first hand experience while I was in Seattle attending seminary of a priest in a similar position. It was the mid 80s and Archbishop Werhl was but auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle at the time the Vatican was investigating the very gay friendly AB Raymond Hunthausen and eventually pushing him into retirement.

    My friend, Father Jim, had fallen in love with a young man his age. He was unsure and conflicted in his emotions. He was also unsure about leaving the RC or just leaving his vocation, or even transferring his vocation in another church’s jurisdiction. Wrapped up in this was also his fear of loosing his income, his housing and his healthcare.

    Father Cuté may well have been in the same position. Bishop Frade says that this process of discernment has been occurring for two years. No one here is privy to what all has transpired in that two year process. No one here is in a position to judge whether Father Cutié is in a position to transfer and immediately continue his vocation. But not for the Mexican tabloid which outed him, he most likely wished all of this to transpire under a different situation. But a bishop in the church of God has expressed his faith and confidence in this man, welcomed him into our expression of the Church and tasked him with lay responsibilities as he completes the process to have his vocation recognized and return to priestly duties. I can do no less.

  24. I don’t mean this as a rebuttal to your larger point, David, but he has admitted to a sexual relationship.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/05/11/earlyshow/leisure/celebspot/main5005429.shtml?source=related_story

    As to the larger point, I once wrote a book whose main character was a priest in much the situation you describe (and with whom, unfortunately, I have lost touch.) I don’t for an instant think that these folks shouldn’t be welcomed into the church or that ordained ministry might lie in their future. I have misgiving about the speed with which this happened–Yes, he has been talking to Bishop Frade for along time, but this comes on theheels of embarrasing disclosures, during a tumultuous time in his life, and it hardly seems the ideal moment for big decisions.–and the attendant publicity, which, I now realize, was probably unavoidable.

  25. David Allen |dah • veed|

    Thanks Jim. I looked for this to be sure before shooting off my mouth, but did not find it. So I assumed that it was not there.

  26. BSnyder

    If nothing else, it clearly demonstrates the Bishop’s utter tone-deafness.

    And, so sorry, I don’t particularly believe that what Bishops and priests say and do should not be questioned. I don’t think that they are by definition correct, and the rest of us should sit down and keep quiet. I actually thought we were members of a church in which we could ask questions – but it seems I was wrong about that.

    Well, I guess when you’re a “media star,” you get special treatment. After all, there’s no bad publicity….

  27. teleme

    We all fall short of the glory of God. It would have been nice for Father Cute to make the transition to the Episcopal Church without the scandal, but this is his walk with God.

    (Editor’s note: Thanks, teleme. We need your full name next time.),

  28. garydasein

    The Episcopal Church can use all the help it can get with Hispanic ministry. Father Cutié is one of the most popular priests in North America. That he fell in love with an adult woman does not strike me as a real scandal considering Rome’s predilection for pedophilia. He has known Bishop Frade since 2000. Both Cutié and Frade are Cuban and get along very well if I can trust a recent CBS report. It sounds like a good deal for TEC to make him an Episcopal priest as soon as possible. Somebody with his preaching skills should not waste them sitting in the pews.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  29. BSnyder

    Actually, it seems to be the bishop who’s completely clueless here, while the priest himself acknowledges that he was wrong and asks forgiveness (see the story linked above, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/05/11/earlyshow/leisure/celebspot/main5005429.shtml?source=related_story .

    He also says he doesn’t want to be a “poster boy for anti-celibacy.” At least he seem to have his head on right.

    The bishop has some fairly ridiculous things to say, though. For instance:

    “Well,” Frade responded, “for a single person, kissing and loving another single woman, I think that a scandal would have been if he would have been — if she would have been a married woman or something like that. But Father Cutie is a single person, loving another single person, and when you have to obey your heart, indeed, the teaching that he could tell our people is that love is able to conquer everything.”

    “To conquer everything”? The priest doesn’t even know if he’s going to marry this woman or not! What, exactly, has been “conquered,” please? The priest’s virginity? Oh, brother.

    It sounds as if the Episcopal bishop is the cause of the problem here, not the Catholic priest. Not exactly a shocker, that.

  30. David Allen |dah • veed|

    Mr/Ms? BSnyder, perhaps you missed that they were received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Frade as a betrothed couple. He has asked her to marry him and it appears that she has accepted.

  31. BSnyder

    Source, please? This article says it was to be a “private ceremony” – so where is this information coming from?

    (And BTW, since when is Reception into the Church a “private ceremony”?)

  32. Priscilla Cardinale

    BSnyder, I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding your bitterness and petulance n this matter.

    I myself was received into the Episcopal Church from the Roman Catholic Church in a “private” ceremony by my bishop 13 years ago, with my sponsoring choir director as the only witness in the bishop’s private chapel.

    This was due to my flying out of state the next morning to take a new job after having attended my Episcopal Church for 8 years.

    I doubt very seriously that my circumstances were that unique, even if they differed from your own.

    The continued animus you are exhibiting here towards Fr. Cutie and Bishop Frade are troubling and I will pray for you.

    Priscilla Cardinale

  33. BSnyder

    BSnyder, I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding your bitterness and petulance n this matter.

    Priscilla Cardinale, I am interested in getting some answers as to actions and statements of this Bishop in particular – which have so far not been forthcoming. The things he’s said and done are not, in my view, helpful for our church – or, in fact, for the priest himself, who really ought to be given some time to sort himself out without any pressure.

    Name-calling – which has happened several times now on this thread – is a very weak response, and frankly I don’t feel obliged to respond to it.

    It’s my right to criticize people I think are doing harm to my church and to those who belong to it – or, in fact, for any reason whatsoever. I don’t have to worship the clergy just because they wear collars. And my “reasons” are not pertinent, anyway; if the criticism is invalid, then respond to that.

    I’m sorry you don’t like this – but I’m still waiting for answers, while all I get is more name-calling.

  34. BSnyder

    (For instance: Baptism, Confirmation, and Reception are public rites in the church.

    Your reception is a good example of a reasonable exception. The current example is not – and it’s quite reasonable to ask why it’s being done this way.

    Again, I’m not required to sit and be silent in the face of what I think are bad decisions. I’m certainly not required to rubber-stamp them. This thread asks the question, “Anybody else have mixed feelings about this? One can oppose mandatory priestly celibacy and still feel uneasy about the Rev. Cutié jumping so quickly and publicly to new ministry in a new church after being caught in the act of breaking his ordination vows. No?”

    The answer to me is, yes. I don’t really quite understand why you think that answer should be off-limits.)

  35. David Allen |dah • veed|

    BSnyder, you have linked to the story foretelling their reception into TEC. Here is the story after the fact;

    Father Alberto Cutié joins Episcopal church, will marry

    I think that it was a private service to the author of the article in that it was not a regularly scheduled service. But it appears to have been attended by a number of folks besides the happy couple and the bishop.

    Perhaps the bishop and his diocese look at it a bit more like a job switch in the secular world. He used to work for the Roman Corporation and now he works for Episcopal Incorporated!

  36. tgflux

    Anyone else have a problem w/ this? No?

    the Eucharist, the symbolic body and blood of Christ.

    Not for THIS Anglo-Catholic! Real Presence, babies!

    Beyond that, I don’t quite get the dumping on J Naughton & BSnyder. At the very least, Cutie’s decision to switch teams only when caught LOOKS bad.

    This is not to say he shouldn’t become a priest in TEC (within a standard period for an RC priest swimming the Thames). But an clear acknowledgment by Cutie and +Frade that his transfer was only coincidental to (or, at most, moved up) a discerned decision that was coming ANYWAY, would be helpful.

    JC Fisher

    [Part of his TEC priestly formation to include Cutie’s EVERY televised Popoid-line spouting, to get his clear renunciation of same! :-/]

  37. I have to say that I have had something of a conversion on this subject over the last day or two. I didn’t have a strong enough sense of what a rock star the Rev. Cutie is. There was really no way to handle this quietly, and, apparently, if it were handled more slowly we would have had to endure a steady stream of “When will he jump and where will he land” stories, which would have been less dignified than this one shot deal. The question isn’t so much whether this was done in a dignified way, but whether it was done in the most dignfied way possible given the man’s incredible popularity. And it seems to me now that they did about the best that they could.

  38. BSnyder

    Sorry for my sarcasm above; people are right that I didn’t argue this the best way. I’m kind of fed up with certain things in our church, but I should have gone about this in a different way myself.

    I can see Jim’s point, too – but I’m still pretty sure it’s not in this priest’s own best interest to immediately make him a preacher. It’s fine that he’s been Received in the Church – I have absolutely no problem with that at all, although I still have a question about whether a “private” reception is really a good thing. But, it may be that it’s the popularity issue there – but really: give the man a break and let him just be, for awhile.

    That’s good for him, IMO, and it’s good for the church.

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