Editor's Note: Father Alberto Cutie, an internationally known Catholic priest who admitted having a romantic affair and breaking his vow of celibacy, is joining the Episcopal Church to be with the woman he loves, he said Thursday.
Joe and Joan Koechler
Voice of the Faithful
Our first thoughts are congratulations to Father Cutié. We are sure he thought long and hard in coming to his decision. He can now be married and remain in ministry.
In the history of the Church, the celibacy requirement for priests is "relatively" recent – only in the last thousand years! The early Church, as shown in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, evidences a married leadership (including Peter). (And note, there is no reference to "priests" in the New Testament.)
The Bishop of Miami noted that celibacy does have a role. It allows for total dedication of life to ministry. However, try to tell anyone with a career that marriage prevents dedication to that career. The reasons for celibacy are probably more nuanced. At the time the formal rule of celibacy was declared there were issues of property inheritance and gross abuses related to sexuality. And there had been a long theological theme going back to St. Augustine equating sexual relationships with baser instincts and evil inclinations, but needed for procreation.
Our conviction today is that the Catholic Church needs to recognize that the call to ministry is not restricted to a celibate clergy. And we need to recognize that the call to ministry comes from our communities as in the early Church where ministers were appointed by the local community with the subsequent blessing of the local Church leaders. Our tradition confirms this: our Eastern Rite churches have married clergy. The current practice of accepting Anglican and Episcopal priests into Catholicism with their wives and families moves us in the direction of a married clergy. The practice of most religions shows the value of a married clergy. Frankly, sometimes we believe that the current rule is meant to place marriage in a secondary role as a church sacrament, no matter what documents exist that extol the sacramental nature of marriage. (If you want confirmation that marriage has a second class status in our church, look at office of married deacon re-established after the Second Vatican Council – if a deacon's wife dies he may not remarry!)
Lastly, our Church now is in need of ministers. Churches are closing not just for lack of financial resources, but also for lack of ministers. At least half my class that was ordained in 1968 has left active ministry, some to move to Episcopal churches as married priests. There is no reason that a married clergy cannot meet the Catholic churches needs.
Editor's Note: Joe Koechler is a former Catholic priest and Joan Koechler is a former nun. They have been married 30 years. Both are members of the Voice of the Faithful, a group dedicated to Catholic reform.
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