Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Telegenic Latino preacher dropped from Miami church in wake of scandal

Catholic preacher Alberto Cutié, better known to millions of Spanish-language television viewers as "Padre Alberto", has been removed from his post at the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Miami Beach and banned from conducting Sunday mass, reports The Miami Herald.

The swift removal of the Puerto Rico-born preacher comes in the wake of a series of photographs published in the Spanish-language gossip magazine TVyNotas which show Cutié frolicking with a woman on a beach. Representatives from the Archdiocese of Miami stated that Cutié was being removed for breaking his vow of celibacy.

Cutié, arguably the best known Catholic preacher among Latinos in the United States, ran a couple of afternoon talk shows on the Telemundo network in which he doled advice to guests, audience members and callers. Despite the cancellation of those shows in 2002, Cutié continued to be prominently featured on several talk shows while running a local radio show and authoring a couple of books.

For a priest with such a visible media presence, Cutié was often asked about his take on homosexuality and, although not as rabidly homophobic as other Catholic priests, his basic stance came down to the good-ol' 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' position predicated by the Vatican.

From a 1999 New York Times article:

On homosexuality: ''The church does not reject anyone. Being homosexual is not a sin because it's something that you don't choose.'' But he added, ''The practice is another matter.''

From a 2006 interview posted at Access My Library:

Q: What about homosexuality in general? Will the church ever openly accept gays and lesbians?

A: The approach of the Catholic Church, I have to tell you, is a lot more accepting than the approach of the new mega-churches and the fundamentalist churches. The Catholic Church is closer to the position of science, which says we don't really know how a person becomes, um, homosexual. We don't know if it's something you're born with or if it's something that you become. What we do know is that they should be respected.

Obviously, the statements seem to show some evolution in his thoughts about homosexuality, but I remember seeing him discuss the issue several times on television and thinking how much more insidious it was to have a telegenic preacher on national television cloak the 'practicing gayness is bad' angle with his wide smile, instead of expressing outright homophobic sentiment.

Cuité has released a short statement which reads, in part, "I ask for the forgiveness of those who may be hurt or saddened by my actions" (in other words, a non-apology apology).

Some of his parishioners have jumped to his defense and the scandal has elicited media dialogue on whether the church should do away with celibacy restrictions on Catholic preachers.

Let's hope that, now that Cutié is on the other side of those who make 'practice' of their sexuality, he will fully come around and acknowledge that his sexual drive and sexuality are as life-affirming and natural as that of gays and lesbians - as well as acknowledge that while some fundamentalist evangelical churches might be more outwardly hostile to gays and lesbians, The Catholic church is not nearly as enlightened as he paints it to be.


UPDATE: In a letter allegedly authored by Cuité, as published in a Puerto Rican television gossip show's blog, InFraganti, the priest alludes to some of the conflicts he has felt for a long time when it comes to his celibacy vows and also indicates that priests he knows struggle with issues related to homosexuality. He also states, unequivocally, that the Catholic Church should embrace the calls for reform. I have translated an excerpt:

For a long time I was convinced that with a good dosis of prayer, exercise and a balanced life, every temptation could be overcome. But, in my particular case, it wasn't so [...] Parish work and the media, introduced me to all kind of persons - including many brother priests who also struggle with diverse topics about human sexuality and the celibacy that the church requires from us. It has not been easy. In fact, to my closest friends and collaborators, I have said that "this year was the most difficult of my life"; witnessing so many unpleasant situations which [some of ] my brother priests have lived - in and outside Miami. Perhaps knowing so many things about the institution and in so many places, has made me more sensitive to all this pain and the need that the Church has of reforming itself. Scripture says: "It is not good for a man to be alone" and that I have lived in my own flesh. I have seen in many brothers and in myself.

I want you to know that I take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for my actions and that it is I who acted badly. I ask God for forgiveness and from you if anyone feels offended. At the same time I am consoled by God's mercy - because God has widely open arms and I know that He loves us all wih his unconditional love.

UPDATE 2: CNN's Rick Sanchez to the rescue! (h/t Guanabee)

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic


Francisco (Melvin) Rosario said...

I know this has nothing to do with this, but he's so hot! I would tap that in a second!

Lucrece said...

If you've actually followed his column, you'll know that the insidious creep referred a young man asking for his counsel to NARTH.