Jan 5, 2011

Love and the Disgraced Priest

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Father Albert Cutié has a new book out on his journey from disgraced Catholic priest to happily married Episcopal priest. He and his wife also have a newborn daughter so I know his book publicist is loving him. In the publicity game we call that great timing. But I digress.

Cutié has harsh words for the church he left.

"In the Roman Catholic Church, a scandal is not really a scandal until it becomes public," Cutie writes in his new book, Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love, which hits stores Tuesday (Jan. 4).

Yet when he was caught by paparazzi canoodling with his girlfriend on a Miami beach in 2009, Cutie was booted from his rectory, dropped from his insurance plan and told he would no longer receive a paycheck.

It would be easy to dismiss his criticism of the church's hypocrisy as sour grapes from a disgruntled former employee, were it not for the many cases of priests who did far worse only to be protected by a shroud of secrecy. Cutié claims to have witnessed firsthand numerous transgressions that were ignored, one presumes, because they were never caught by the paparazzi.

The Rev. Albert Cutie saw a lot of things in his 14 years as a Catholic priest while church officials looked the other way: priests who got caught with prostitutes, priests who lived with their gay partners, and men of the cloth who kept one bed in the rectory and another with their mistress.

Of course, these transgressions were as victimless as Cutié's and, with the exception of the prostitutes, legal. But as I've written in numerous entries over the last few months, the Catholic Church's blind eye has also extended to egregious abuses of children and adolescents. This protection of, in some cases, sociopathic pedophiles extended to the highest levels of the Vatican; even to the former pope. Instead of turning abusers over to the authorities, defrocking, or, at least, removing them permanently from contact with parishioners and their children, the Catholic Church at all levels of authority -- Bishops, Archbishops, and the Vatican -- has participated in cover-ups and shuffled offending priests to other parishes and other countries. This, even in cases, of unrepentant and prolific predators like Ken "the Pied Piper" Kiesle, Robert Trupia, and the stunningly evil Marcial Maciel Degollado. In the case of Tony Walsh, it took a crime so venal it couldn't be kept quiet -- raping a grief-stricken boy at a funeral gathering -- to spur action. But it had long been known that he was an "unrepentant abuser."

In case after case, the Church has thrown children under the bus in favor of protecting predatory priests and its own reputation. And yet, in this unusual instance, Father Cutié was thrown under the bus for his perfectly healthy attraction to and relationship with a consenting adult the minute it became publicly embarrassing. I can only shake my head and wonder at the priorities of an institution that clearly knows full well it's vows are burdensome and often transgressed, but is only really spurred to action when its reputation and/or finances are at risk. (Eight archdioceses in the US have been bankrupted by lawsuits, with the Milwaukee Archdiocese being the latest to seek protection or face closure.) I could admire the Church's forgiveness and compassion for sex offenders were it not so unforgiving of any sexual expression that becomes public knowledge; let alone if it extended such compassion and protection to the countless children whose lives have been devastated by clerical abuse.

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