Sunday, May 31, 2009

Padre Alberto, et. al.

I usually avoid commenting on individual Catholics by name, but some prominent ones have been on my mind lately.

I remember when Padre Alberto Cutie burst onto the public scene many years ago. Catholics rejoiced to have a young, telegenic, articulate, and charismatic priest proclaiming the gospel on the Spanish-speaking media. He was a popular figure on radio and television

A few weeks ago, he was caught canoodling on the beach with a lady friend. His bishop took appropriate actions, which included removing him from his parish ministries and his activities on radio and television. After that, things seemed to quiet down (unless you count stories on outlets like Time and CNN questioning the wisdom of the Church's celibacy policy for priests) until this past week, when the amorous priest suddenly became Episcopalian.

It is at this point that I have to ask, just what did Padre Alberto believe as a Catholic priest. Further, how much might those beliefs be shared by other members of the presbyterate?

It didn't have to end this way. Having failed to sustain his promise of celibate chastity, there were two honorable options available. First, he could have repented of his failure, taken a sabbatical to discern his vocation. The Church would have forgiven him, and he most likely would have been allowed to resume some form of ministry. Or, he could have made a statement to the effect that he had fallen in love with the woman and had discerned that he was called to marriage and would be seeking to be released from the clerical state. Either option would have been acceptable, albeit disappointing.

Instead, Padre Alberto chose to turn his back on the Catholic Church. I presume that, in entering the Episcopal Church, he is making a statement that he believes what the Episcopal Church teaches, including where those teachings are at variance with what the Catholic Church teaches. Homosexual marriage? No problem. Actively gay bishops? Great. Contraception? Sure, whatever works for you. Ordination of women? It's only fair. The sacraments, apostolic succession, papal authority, infallibility, divorce and remarriage. The anchor is gone. Anything goes.

Again, I have to wonder, when did he stop believing, and how many others like him are there, away from the public spotlight?

He's certainly not the first priest to disappoint, but he just might be the most brazen and the quickest to turn.

Fr. Chris Carpenter left the Catholic Church to join a group known as the Reformed Catholic Church. He was excommunicated. But in his case, the change appeared to be gradual, and not exactly a sudden surprise.

Fr. Marcel Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement, who died in 2006, was revealed to have fathered a child more than twenty years ago. There were other accusations against Fr. Maciel which were vigorously denied, although it now appears likely that at least some of them might be true. Whether he was repentant is not known, but even to the end of his life, he encouraged fidelity to the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Holy Father.

Fernando Lugo was a Catholic bishop. The bishop asked to be released from the clerical state so that he could enter politics. The Vatican initially denied the request, but subsequently accepted his resignation after he was elected President of Paraguay. It was recently revealed that Lugo fathered at least one child while he was a bishop.

I understand that priests are people too, with faults and frailties. We need them to be more than that. We expect them to undergo a solid spiritual formation, and those who resist the formation should simply not be ordained. They need our prayers.

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