RNS: ‘Father Oprah’ leaves for Episcopal Church; plans to marry

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The celebrity Miami priest known as "Father Oprah" converted from Catholicism to the Episcopal Church on Thursday (May 28), weeks after pictures surfaced of the cleric canoodling with his girlfriend on a Florida beach.

The Rev. Alberto Cutie and his girlfriend were received into the Episcopal Church at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami on Thursday, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.

Unlike Catholic clerics, Episcopal priests are allowed to marry, and Cutie, 40, plans to wed his girlfriend and pursue ordination in the Episcopal Church, according to the diocese.

The diocese said Thursday's ceremony culminates a "two year discernment process" for Cutie, indicating that he had considered converting long before photos revealing his relationship with the woman were published by Spanish-language media earlier this month.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

18 Comments
Posted May 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ad Orientem wrote:

If this is accurate and he is acting after a two year period of discernment than clearly he is moving with both eyes open and he knows what TEC stands for.  While I am saddened by his decision and suspect that the final leap was partly caused by his recent troubles, nonetheless I wish him well.  If he is not a Roman Catholic in faith then leaving the Roman Church is the honest thing to do.  With some luck maybe he will inspire some of the other cafeteria types to follow him.

Changing religions is almost always challenging on many levels not least of which is emotional.  In my case it took the better part of 25 years before I finally left the Roman Church (though for different reasons and I went in a different direction).  But when one finally reaches the point where you can’t fudge your serious theological differences, then it is time.  Deciding to convert was the hardest thing I ever did.  But it was also the best decision I ever made.

Under the mercy
John

May 30, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
2. John Wilkins wrote:

I think Cutie was very much a sympathetic pastor; he wasn’t much of a theologian.  And it is in part that the Episcopal church has made its decisions pastorally (and democratically), it has gone the route it has.  When I watched a couple shows and interviews, he didn’t say anything different than a good pastor from any denomination - most of the time.

But it is fascinating that a Cuban American would leave the RC family.  It does say something about how culture and denominational ties have become delinked.  Essentially, this is a move toward cultural assimilation. 

We won’t just be serving Gin and Tonics at the church picnic anymore.  Time to get out the rum.  For mojitos.

May 30, 3:58 pm | [comment link]
3. Dee in Iowa wrote:

This is so sad….Not Cutie and his problems…....my problem is with a bishop who would agree to the discernment period without the priest and/or the TEC bishop communicating the fact to the RC priest.  I’d even be willing to speculate that 99.999% of the current TEC bishops would not pull a stunt like this.  And yes, it has all the appearances of a “stunt”.

May 30, 4:11 pm | [comment link]
4. Dee in Iowa wrote:

oops - that should read “to the RC bishop”

May 30, 4:12 pm | [comment link]
5. David Fischler wrote:

Please note that the “two year discernment process” happens to be the amount of time that he’s been involved with his girlfriend. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

May 30, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
6. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re #5
David,
It might be, or it might not be.  I think the bottom line is that he is not moving rashly or blindly.  As I said above I don’t agree with his course of action.  But assuming it reflects more than a disagreement with Roman discipline, then I would say he is at least being honest.

Re #3
Dee,
I don’t think think the bishop erred by failing to report to the Roman bishop discernment process.  This kind of falls under the heading of spiritual counseling and I tend to view that as inherently confidential.  I do however regret the way the announcement of his conversion was handled.  That was rather tactless and kinda “in your face” to the Romans.  I think the Roman Catholic bishop could be forgiven for being a bit piqued.  I don’t remember the Catholics holding press conferences to roll out every new prominent convert from TEC (and there have been quite a few).

When Al Kimel swam the Tiber there was a lot of talk in the blogosphere.  But if there was even a sentence in the mainstream press or media then I missed it.

Under the mercy,
John

May 30, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
7. frdarin wrote:

All,

Whatever the circumstances of Fr. Cutie’s “conversion” to TEC, it would be safe to say that Bp. Frade is eating this up, and using it for all its worth.  Stand Firm has posted a link to comments the bishop sent to parishes in his diocese, advising them to prepare for the increase in visitors he expects they will see as a result of this publicity.  Really?!  This is quite an evangelism program.

I don’t think it’s fair to let Bp Frade off the hook for how this was handled.  Most likely, it is what it looks like.  Shameless use of media and celebrity, and perceived social relevance to push the TEC brand.

Fr. Darin Lovelace+
St. David’s Anglican Church (soon to be ACNA!)
Durant, Iowa

May 30, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
8. Fr. Dale wrote:

#2 John Wilkins,

We won’t just be serving Gin and Tonics at the church picnic anymore.  Time to get out the rum.  For mojitos.

Majoring in minors aren’t you John? If this were football, TEC probably would think it got a good pick in the free agency. The problem you neglected to mention is why he is available. This could have been another law suit against the Roman Catholic Church if the relationship had gone sour.

May 30, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
9. Jon wrote:

Note to AO (#6)... always nice to see you on here.  And especially nice to see a compassionate and charitable take on this sort of news story coming from a theological conservative (in this case who is both orthodox and Orthodox—grin).

That said, I think I am more inclined to agree with some of the other folks on this thread regarding the two year discernment done in secret from the RC bishop.  My feeling is that beginning formal discernment for the priesthood/pastorate—in ANY Christian communion (Baptist, RC, Orthodox, C of E, LCMS, etc.)—should have as a prerequisite that you are in fact a member of that communion!  It’s a tiny bit like surreptitiously beginning a 2-year training program to work for Britain’s secret service when you are still working for the CIA.

To me what would would have been a perfectly acceptable thing for the TEC bishop to do is to say something like this:

“We’ll be glad to help set up a confidential process wherein you learn more about TEC, and where you can attempt to discern whether you wish to abandon Rome and join our communion.  We must say clearly here that we aren’t encouraging you to abandon Rome, though we aren’t condemning you for your uncertainty either.  Further, we need to be clear that you are not beginning a discernment of the TEC priesthood—only a private period of wrestling with whether you can truthfully remain inside the fold of Rome and whether TEC might be the better place for you.  If you do eventually join TEC it will be as a rank and file parishioner with no promise of necessarily becoming a TEC priest.”

To me that combines both the pastoral sensitivity and appropriate confidentiality needed for the guy, without basically encouraging him in inappropriate behavior (secretly training to work for MI-5 when he is supposed to be a loyal employee of the CIA).

May 30, 6:52 pm | [comment link]
10. Branford wrote:

As I have written elsewhere, did Bishop Frade let Fr. Cutie know that TEC is an official member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion group? Did the bishop review with Fr. Cutie the 1994 GC resolution allowing for abortion? Does Fr. Cutie know that he is entering a church that does not support Life as understood by the Roman Catholic Church? Or is it all just a personal decision because Fr. Cutie didn’t want to be “just” a lay Catholic? This is more serious that a former RC priest wanting to get married, this is rejecting the RC position on Life.

May 30, 7:01 pm | [comment link]
11. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re #9
Jon,
Perhaps I misread the article but I understood the discernment period as dealing with the question of conversion not necessarily ordination.  As for your colorful espionage analogy, I like it but would make one small change.  Instead of the question being should MI6 have reported to the CIA that one of their agents wanted to work for the Queen, the more correct analogy was should the KGB have reported to the CIA that their man was considering defecting?

I really don’t think the bishop or any clergy has an obligation to send a letter to the parent church of their prospective converts letting them know whats going on.  In fact in most cases I think that would be highly inappropriate.  In this case it would have put the priest under a cloud (at the very least) with his now former church before he was committed to converting.

All of that aside though, I still don’t like the way the TEC bishop handled the announcement.  And I will also add that Fr. Cutie could have shown a little more class by breaking the news to his former boss in person rather than through a press conference.

Under the mercy,
John

May 30, 7:22 pm | [comment link]
12. David Fischler wrote:

John (AO): You are obviously a much more compassionate and forgiving person than I am. I can’t help but think that the “discernment process” that began when he got involved with his girlfriend, and serendipitously concluded just as he was being outed by a tabloid and losing his platform within the Catholic Church, is just too convenient for words.

As for Leo Frade, you wonder whether it ever occurs to him that a priest who so brazenly broke his vows in one church is just as likely to do so again, given that Frade is enabling him to evade any kind of discipline. And his glee at the publicity opportunity is so crass, so shameless, so devoid of principle that Elmer Gantry would not only be proud of him—he’d be jealous!

May 30, 7:48 pm | [comment link]
13. Words Matter wrote:

It’s fascinating the play this is getting on the blogs. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not really a big thing.  People come into the Catholic Church and leave the Catholic Church all for time, for all sorts of reasons.

May 30, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
14. stjohnsrector wrote:

Great - we get the Roman priests who can’t keep their vows, or heretics like Matthew Fox (“The Coming of the Cosmic Christ”), and our some of our best and brightest Anglo-catholics go to Rome.
Hardly a fair exchange.

May 31, 12:04 am | [comment link]
15. Shumanbean wrote:

The notion that Mr. Cutie has been involved in a two year discernment process is either documented or else it’s smoke being blown. I suspect its smoke. I can’t say how it is in SE Florida, but typically clergy with proven track records in other denominations, even when they aren’t involved in romantic relationships in violation of their ordination vows, are required to go through a diocesan process. And that would include ceasing ministry in their former denomination. If Mr. Cutie had really been in the Episcopal process, his RC bishop would have known. And whether he is compassionate, a swell priest, very pastoral and so on, he was still knowingly and actively in violation of his ordination vows. And that ought to give a bishop pause.

May 31, 6:47 am | [comment link]
16. Dan Crawford wrote:

Two years of “canoodling” followed by a bishop’s blessing is an integral element of the discernment process and the TEC catechumenal period.

By the way, what is “canoodling” - is it hitting a home run or only getting to third base?

May 31, 7:49 am | [comment link]
17. Dee in Iowa wrote:

# 7 - Fr. Darin - keep me posted…....Sunday morning, 2 way= 3 hour drives sound good to me…..Dee

May 31, 8:49 am | [comment link]
18. FrPhillips wrote:

By remaining quiet about this “discernment,” he was able to keep the financial support coming.  In fact, with his new home ready to welcome him so readily, he’ll scarcely miss a paycheck.  I’m thankful I was raised better than that.  When I began thinking seriously about entering into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, I immediately resigned as an Episcopal priest.  There was no promise at that time of being ordained as a Catholic priest, but my conscience certainly wouldn’t let me keep taking support from ECUSA, and I know I’m not the only one who made that same decision.

It doesn’t sound like the Episcopalians got much of a bargain.

May 31, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
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