Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trading Collars: Why A Catholic Priest Turns Episcopalian Means Something.



Father Alberto Cutie
 

Commentary by Bob Rucker  

Father Alberto Cutie in Florida announced today he is leaving the catholic church and is being welcomed, with open arms, by the Episcopal Church where he can continue to be a priest and be a married man. His sin, dear Catholics with moral value,...he fell in love with a woman and could not deny it. So he elected to find a way to be true to God's calling to preach and God's gift to have true love in his life. 

What? No "abomination" declarations from the Vatican for this guy? 
Nevertheless, like in corporate America, Fr. Cutie was given a quiet but most definite walk to the door, and a less than prayerful admonishment to just "Get Out!" 

Like that popular tee shirt and slogan, I'm thinking right about now..."Wow! Is that what Jesus would do?

Being all but forced out of the church Jesus established simply because of a tradition rooted in economic gain modern day has cost the church a valued voice and, by all accounts, a good and genuine caretaker of Christ's flock in Florida. When will the Catholic Church stop hiding behind the sacrament of Holy Orders and face a truth that history clearly records?  When are modern church leaders going to draw on their courage and real faith to meet more of the growing needs of God's people on earth?

The Bible and history records that many of the 12 apostles were, in fact, married. Jesus himself chose them and none were drummed out because of their wives. For CENTURIES thousands of church leaders and priests were wed. In the 11th century, however, a decree by Pope Gregory VII required priests to take a vow of celibacy. Apparently that pope believed the best way to hold onto property for the church and keep women from taking it away if marriages failed or if priests left was to deny all the right to marry.

Nothing in the Bible requires celibacy for catholic priests. It was a materialistic decision made by a very human pontiff for purely pragmatic reasons resulting in this church time-honored practice. By placing strict importance and value on the concepts of self-discipline and sacrifice for Christ, the church found a way to enforce its self-serving "no wives" policy."

One can only wonder how many good and decent men have, over time, stepped back from a true calling to Holy Orders just to be true to their hearts and to God's great gift of loving companionship. I wonder if Jesus came back, and saw the gift of love being pitted against the gift of service to all, if He might be outraged and again tear through the material-centered church of today, and say as He once did in ancient Jerusalem, "...You have turned the House of God into a den of thieves."

Nevertheless, today's Catholics seem so resigned to the 'no marriage for priests policy, giving little thought to the possibilities of showcasing personal love and community service combined as a viable life goal and noble purpose. Other Christian churches in our world do this quite beautifully, but our usual catholic response is... "but they're not the one true church!" Because we've been told for centuries now not to challenge the Holy See in Rome, we've forgotten a lot about our rich history and traditions which found ways to embrace difficult changes by not shying away from them.

It requires courage from today's descendants of the Apostles within the ranks of the priesthood to stand up and call for important discussions and changes. For inspiration you have the 12 Apostles who were challenged by St. Paul to accept his conversion, his unique ministry and his goal to welcome and bring Gentiles (not just Jews) into the church founded by Jesus, even though Christ never specifically told them to do that. Those of us who are catholics of African, European, Asian and other cultural decent are eternally grateful the first priests and leaders of the church were not afraid to discuss the possibilities and embrace change, seeing it as a real asset for fulfilling Jesus' last request to "make disciples of all nations." Boy have times changed.

American Bishops today are, by all indications, far more interested in keeping the celibacy rule safe and secure because it's what they know and learned in their rigid training. May go further and try to mystify its materialistic and self-righteousness origin by saying the church, unlike other institutions, is not subject to the changing times. How convenient if you want to keep things as they are and secure a fat and happy life for yourselves.

Early followers of Christ put their lives on the line constantly for the Children of God and their needs which evolved over the centuries. Today's leadership seems far more like the American political system with many wanting to rise in the church's ranks and secure a comfortable title and paper-pushing position of authority without daring to grow in thought and action. What's happened to relying on the faithful guidance of the Holy Spirit to face change, instead of putting trust solely into what's here and now and works just fine? 

Many of us who are believers and Catholics just scratch our heads or bristle with disgust. To us, Father Alberto's move to the Anglicans today inspired sadness in both the English and Spanish speaking Christian communities. It's like seeing a promising President Obama just quit because he just can't stand the crafty maneuverings and old politics of Congress and Washington. Fortunately this president realizes what a dear friend of mine just told me, namely "challenges enable enlightenment," and "change is something to
 embraced in order to be better stewards of all the people in all ways."

With the growing needs of our world, our communities, and our families today, no one wins and Jesus' ministry is certainly damaged when a good man is pushed out of his first calling from God simply because church authority 
insists it simply knows better. Like the Apostles who questioned St. Paul, and listened to his passionate arguments which made possible the inclusion of countless champions of Christ from cultures around the world, isn't it time ( in fact long overdue) for our church leaders to truly walk in St. Peter's footsteps, be open to learning about the world's struggles, and enable a meaningful reevaluation of self-serving and outdated materialistic dictates from centuries past?

There is no wonder there is a shortage of priests worldwide. The church is far more interested today in shoring up what
it has been doing then casting as wider net for potential "Fishermen of Christ." Rules are needed in our world. But
Christ himself chose death on a cross before he would deny His mission on earth. The men dressed in fine wardrobes and sitting in fancy seats at church should try harder to remember this. Christ was not all that impressed with the Sanhedrin and how they used their authority.

 Really...What WOULD Jesus do about marriage for catholic priests?

Whether we're priests, bishops, the pope or laymen, believers know we're all going to find out on judgment day. By then, of course, it's too late, especially if you are standing on the wrong side of Christ in that court.

 

Prof. Bob Rucker 
Director
School of Journalism and Mass Communications
San Jose State University

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

CNN news story: Priest who broke celibacy vow joins Episcopal Church

 

Back to TOP OF THIS PAGE                         Professor Rucker's Home Page