Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Notre Dame fallout continues. If nothing else the sad affair has provided the Church with a moment of illumination. Painful illumination in some cases, but illumination none the less. The polls indicating overwhelming support for the Presidental honor at Notre Dame demonstrates again that the Catholic people simply dont know what their faith teaches. They are dreadfully confused, particularly about the preeminence of the life issue above all other concerns. Fault for this must be placed before their teachers: priests and even bishops who are themselves either ignorant of Church teaching or merely expert at spinning core principles to accommodate their political and personal appetites.

There are some positive outcomes, however. The Notre Dame imbroglio has clearly shown that many Catholic bishops, when faced with open defiance, are willing to teach clearly in a unified voice. Catholics who have written me over the last few weeks are heartened and encouraged by the unprecedented episcopal clarity. The second good that has come from this is the reaction of the lay people. In the wake of the Presidential honor at Notre Dame, hundreds of thousands of Catholics signed a petition protesting the Universitys actions, millions of dollars in donations have been denied to the University by alumni, and the faithful have focused anew on the meaning of a Catholic University.

One of the quiet heroes of the Notre Dame scandal is former US ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon. This week on The World Over, in her first interview since rejecting Notre Dames Laetare Medal, Ambassador Glendon reacts to the controversy and offers her analysis of the presidents speech. It is an interview you will not want to miss. The interview premieres at 8PM Eastern on Friday May 29th and reairs Sunday and Monday. Encore times can be found at


On May 28th, Father Alberto Cutie, the media priest who made national headlines when he was photographed getting cozy with his girlfriend on a Miami beach, joined the Episcopal Church. If this were some individual church swapping it would be sad but not troubling. In this case, a priest, espoused to the Catholic Church has turned his back on bedrock beliefs he advocated and championed throughout his adult life.

It is one thing to fall and ask forgiveness, but quite another to say, as Fr. Cutie did in Miamis Episcopal Cathedral the other day: I am continuing my call to spread the message of Gods love and the vocation God gave me to priestly service. This is a rather odd line of reasoning. It would be a bit like a married man, announcing to his wife: I am going to share my love and continue my vocation as a husband-- with another woman! The wife would likely hit him over the head with whatever was in reach. The Archdiocese of Miami, acting a bit more restrained, issued a strongly worded statement.

Archbishop John Favalora said Cutie had separated himself from the communion of the Roman Catholic Church, refused submission to the Pope and forfeited his rights as a cleric. He continued: Fr. Cuties actions have caused grave scandal that led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large. Apparently the Episcopal bishop that welcomed Cutie and his fiance (yes they are getting married) into that denomination never consulted with Archbishop Favalora. Anywhere else this would be considered abandonment.

For this extremely talented and telegenic priest it is a tragic last act. He may have relinquished the very thing that drew all those television producers to him over the years and moved them to build shows around him.

What my friend Father Cutie may not appreciate is that it was primarily his visual contradiction that made him so attractive to female viewers. They saw a handsome, articulate priest, who was unobtainable because of his vows and collar. Now that he has been obtained by his fiance and jettisoned those vows, the mystique is shattered and the public persona will never be the same. Oh, no doubt Padre Alberto will return in some form as a family counselor or columnist. But it is unlikely that a mass audience will care. Oddly, it was his celibacy and his status as a Roman Catholic priest that made him interesting-- even fascinating to the media. Without that he is just another engaged minister. We will see how this drama plays out (probably as an overwrought telenovela coming to Latino TV). In the meantime keep Father Cutie and all priests in your prayers.

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