Catholic Reform in the Face of the Father Cutié Scandal: Why Stop at Just Celibacy?

The Father Cutié scandal is so surreal I still don't even believe it: A media-savvy South Beach Catholic priest with a bit of celebrity and a name that is an accent away from "cutie," is caught by paparazzi caressing a bikini-clad woman on the beach. But the reaction has served as a sounding board on a much more real issue: whether the Catholic Church should still enforce its centuries-old rule of clerical celibacy. 

Calls for relinquishing the practice in the wake of the scandal are coming everywhere from rallies to the blogosphere. Of course, none of those calls is coming from inside the house of God, and the Catholic Church has never been anything resembling a democracy. The decision to end the practice would come from the very people who have made the pledge to be celibate, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that many now calling for forgiveness for Cutié, and indeed a re-examination of celibacy, were familiar with and respected him. One has to wonder if some of his passionate defenders be calling for the same forgiveness for a priest they don't know. Is it a classic case of an arbitrary "sin" seeming much more forgivable when you know the sinner? 

But it remains that Cutié chose to be a priest, made a sacred pledge to remain celibate, and for years preached that others follow the dictates of the church. 

Of course, many within the faith are quick to judge the sexual activities of those who have never taken such a pledge -- opposing equal rights for homosexuals, condom use in the age of HIV, and any sensible method of birth control. 

This is also the church that refuses to ordain women. Isn't there some disturbing subtext to the though that "OK, we'll let our priests have sex with women, but we won't let them be women"?

Just as some people are now proclaiming it's downright cruel to not allow a priest to love a woman, isn't it also downright cruel to forbid homosexuality and the ordination of women? The only difference is that Father Cutié took a vow to remain celibate. No one ever takes a vow to be a woman or homosexual. 

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