Ecumenical relations harmed by canoodling priest

religion | May 31, 2009 | By Martin Barillas

The Rev. Alberto Cutié (pronounced koo tea YAY) is preparing to deliver a Sunday sermon on May 30 after having announced his intention to leave the Catholic Church of his baptism to join the Episcopal Church of the United States. Once known for his popular television program, the telegenic Catholic priest was recently seen canoodling with a woman on a beach. A firestorm of attention ensued following Rev. Cutié’s obvious departure from his vows, while he has yet to announce any plans to marry the woman now identified as 35-year-old Ruhama Buni Canellis.

Media outlets have referred to Canellis as Rev. Cutié’s “fiancée”, who has been a friend of Cutié for a number of years. At a press conference on May 27 held at Trinity Cathedral of the Episcopal Church in Miami, Cutié claimed that his decision leave the Catholic Church had been made over time, rather than because of the revelations of his relationship with Canellis. Rev. Cutié met with Archbishop John Favalora of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami following the publication of the damning photos in a Spanish-language tabloid but did not mention his intention to leave the Catholic Church at that time.

With Canellis at his side, the Puerto Rican Rev. Cutié told the press that it is not his intention to become an “anti-celibacy” priest and paid tribute to the many “faithful” celibate priests of his former church. It will take a year for Rev. Cutié to become fully accepted as a priest of the Episcopal Church.

Archbishop Favalora said in the May 28 statement that Rev. Cutié had violated several canons of the Roman Catholic Church, besides his freely accepted vow of celibacy from which only the pope may release him. The bishop added, “Father Cutié’s actions have caused grave scandal within the Catholic Church, harmed the Archdiocese of Miami − especially our priests – and led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large. Today’s announcement only deepens those wounds.”

Archbishop Favalora also expressed disappointment not only in Rev. Cutié, but also local leaders of the Episcopal Church. In a statement, the archbishop said “I must also express my sincere disappointment with how Bishop Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida has handled this situation. Bishop Frade has never spoken to me about his position on this delicate matter or what actions he was contemplating. I have only heard from him through the local media. This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us. The Archdiocese of Miami has never made a public display when for doctrinal reasons Episcopal priests have joined the Catholic Church and sought ordination. In fact, to do so would violate the principles of the Catholic Church governing ecumenical relations. I regret that Bishop Frade has not afforded me or the Catholic community the same courtesy and respect.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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