Fr Cutie, Celibacy and So On

You've probably read about Fr. Alberto Cutie's new book, Dilemma, in which he recounts his leaving of the Catholic priesthood to marry and his subsequent joining of the Episcopal Church.  The Diane Rehm Show invited me on this morning to speak about celibacy, along with Fr. Cutie, whose book is the focus of the show.  Here's the link.  See what you think.  Needless to say, I didn't always agree with what was being said!

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rosanne santos
8 years ago
Thank you, Fr Martin, for posting this link and for participating in the interview- so much could be accomplished if persons of different opinions were willing to hash out these issues. 

In regards to Chris and Eric's comments- Richard Sipe, who has been a Vatican consultant on celibacy says that at any one time, the majority of "celibates" are actually not celibate.  See his website for more info on this topic. 

125,000 priests have left the clerical state, mainly to marry, in the last 59 years  (Sipe 2008)
and this too speaks to the inability of many priests to remain celibate.  Fr Tom Doyle told me in person (2008) that in seminary, priest candidates are told they will recieve the ability (gift) to remain celibate and that this is a myth. 

Given that 50,000 churches and 100,000 missions have no priest and that the primary mission of the church is salvation of souls, saying only celibates can be priests seems to put celibacy above the Word of God, sacraments and ultimately the salvation of souls.  How will God judge us if we do not advocate for optional celibacy for all under these conditions?

And by the way, it is very much possible to fall head over heels in love with someone without any intention, without any deliberate small acts towards that endeavor, and without having any clue it is happening-and it is naive to think that it cannot happen.  I know because it happened to me.
Eric Styles
8 years ago

I think you did the best you could given the structure of the show. You were only in the last segment of a show on Cutie so the deck was stacked against you.  I also thought you were painstakingly polite.  Cutie, as balanced as he tried to appear, seemed speed over thornier issues that might place his discernment in question.  He is not devoid of the fast-talking media guy that made him high-profile in the first place.

For example at one point he said that nobody told him he might fall in love. I was never a diocesan seminarian, but I have a really hard time believing that nobody talked to him and his classmates about the inevitability of falling in love as a celibate. Perhaps I am way off on this issue, but I think any priest or religious (woman or man), who has lived celibacy with some desire to genuinely love God's people, would share the fact that falling in love is a challenging and beautiful part of celibacy. It happens often. And just like in marriage, people struggle through a difficult decision with many recommitting to their original vows. Sure, as a celibate, this could be even more of a challenge, but it is a typical one, nonetheless.

And even ''falling'' in love is a great deal more complex than the phrase intimates. People do not develop those deep, strong feelings in a vacuum. People don't just fall; they make a whole serious of small and directed choices that move them toward another person. 

 In other words, I do not buy his naivete.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years ago
I'm glad that you were able to get your 2 cents into that show, Jim.  Otherwise it would have been very unbalanced.  It seemed to me that Fr. Cutie - who is promoting his book, btw - still holds a lot of confusion, guilt, and blame in his decision to leave the Catholic priesthood to marry.  The fact that he is selling a book, capitalizing on his dilemma, bothered me.  Not that he doesn't have some valid greivances - but he's still thrashing around without having come to any deeper personal wisdom because of his experience.
Chris Brune
8 years ago

Fr. Jim -

I heard the segment on Diane Rehm. I think the whole thing was stacked against you. I know we are called to speak up when challenged. But does it do any good when you are speaking to an audience and a moderator that are not amenable to persuasion?

Coupla questions:

Do we have any statistics on the number of priests and religious that successfully live out their commitment to celibacy? I have seen it done, so apparently it is possible.

Is it even possible to be a Catholic priest, sister or brother, and married? It seems to me that this would overwhelm anyone short of Saint Peter, the demands of both vocations being so high.

I have read "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything." Will continue to read and re-read. Many thanks for a very useful work.
8 years ago
Chris, it seems that since the vast majority of clergy are married, including Eastern Rite Catholic clergy, that it should not be beyond the capabilities of the typical priest to successfully manage his responsibilties as a priest and those of being a husband and father.   Joining a religious order as a sister or brother normally means joining a community, and precludes living with a family.  However, the numbers of married lay people who now take on roles and responsibilities traditionally done by sisters and brothers, as well as by priests, may mean that the future practical functionng of the church may be as much in the hands of the laity as in the vowed or ordained.  And that might take the church closer to its roots - to the days before the calcified structure that exists now started, to a time when the church was the community who met in homes, and selected their own leaders, and who also went out into the broader community to live the gospel messages they had learned.
8 years ago
I think Fr. Martin did a great job - esp. considering the host's refined bias against the church as displayed by her line of questioning - common for NPR and most media these days.

I also found it interesting that she did not thank Fr. Martin for his contributions at the end of the segment - perhaps she thought his answers were too Catholic ;)
8 years ago
PS - I will bet a million bucks that Rev. Cutie told the paparazi exactly where he would be with the girlfriend the day he was exposed (on south beach, no less). 

Nothing says PR and book sales like a good scandal. 
8 years ago
I was glad Fr. Martin did not resort to the ad hominem about book pushing which is not the topic here.
I think Fr. Martin gave a best defence on behalf of celibacy.
I did not think his defense of the Western Rite (I don't think the practoce of Eastern Rite Catholics was discussed -but maybe they're considered secondary), i.e. Roman Rite,  and the inability to raise the issue in policy circles  was as well addressed.
Then there's the issue of "sex obsession" that was raised and I couldn't help but think of the post "Sex and the married deacon" on the other America blog on scripture...
Jane Francis
8 years ago
I'm sure we could all find bias where we want...but nice job, Father. I'm just glad Diane Rehm had the integrity to include an ''alternative'' view point on the show...most programs covering Fr. Cutie's book don't. Given that polling data shows most Catholics welcome or at least would accept celibacy as optional for priests, and the fact that most non-Catholics see it as an aberration, I think it was surprising she even bothered to include Father at all. (Sorry if you don't like the polling data but this post isn't about that; besides, you may not agree but poll after poll shows the same outcome.) So hat's off for a job well done, especially when popular sentiment seems to be with Fr. Cutie. (another parenthetical: why is it that the most cynical voices about Fr. Cutie's experience come not from the clergy but some of the laity...hummm?)
Eric Styles
8 years ago
Rosanne, et al,

On the issue of falling in love we will have to agree to disagree. I too have fallen in love and yes my initial experience was like the one you describe. And yet upon reflection I have had to except that I was not only attracted to a person, but to an experience. For me, It does not diminish the greatness of romantic love to say that it is not as spontaneously as it feels. I would not have joined the Society of Jesus if I had not knowingly given into the romantic aspect of be a Jesuit. And I will never be sustained in this life without that same romance.  

And yet real Christian love is always a choice. That's why freedom is so key in a marriage and a religious vocation. It has to chosen day by day.

Regarding Sipe - and at risk of being too provocative - I think that at any one time, the majority of married men are actually not chaste in their marriages. Chastity and fidelity are a challenge for most men, especially in the subtle ways we human beings can and do deceive ourselves about our interior motives.  

I am not writing all this to poo-poo the possibility of married priests as the standard in the Roman Rite.  That is not the issue that disturbs me.  What disturbs me is the widespread use of naturalistic and deterministic arguments to paint celibacy as an impossibility or even as an abomination Celibacy is no more unnatural than lifelong monogamy, especially for most men. They are choices to discipline or channel one's affective, sexual, love life in a specific way. And given that, they both speak symbolic volumes to the community and to the one who makes the commitment.

We may need to adjust the discipline of clerical discipline.  However, the fact that we live in a culture that does not understand or value celibacy does not mean that we should or must adjust a longstanding and powerful tradition.

I have found this conversation very fruitful.
Jim McCrea
8 years ago
I don't think it is a matter of valuing celibacy so much as valuing MANDATORY celibacy.  If celibacy is a charism, why is such a weak if non-existent charism is so many men (and women?)

There is a huge difference between sow's ears and silk purses.
Rafiqur Rahman
7 years 12 months ago
I listened to the entire segment ... I agree with many of the readers who remarked that the show was stacked against you ... however, you did a great job in defending the Catholic faith! ... for those of us quite happy, proud, and content to be a Catholic - THANK YOU for walking into the lions den for us

Bene Vale 


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