Book Review of Dilemma: A Priests Struggle with Faith and Love by Father Albert Cutie
This book, in addition to revealing Father Cutie’s personal story, is basically an indictment of celibacy in the Catholic Church. It is not a book that I would normally pick up, especially since I am not even Catholic. I just happened to be at a public library tutoring a student when the book caught by eye. It was prominently displayed among other new additions to the library collection. Every time I walked by it, the book seemed to be calling out to me. So after passing it about six times, I finally decided to pick it up and check it out.
Albert Cutie decided at an early age to become a priest. When he entered the seminary, he had a very idealistic view of the Catholic Church and the priesthood. But he knew he was deeply in love with God and had a tremendous heart for service. He had every intention of devoting his entire life to the priesthood and pouring his heart and soul into the parishioners. He thought the issue of celibacy would never be a problem for him.
It wasn’t very long into his seminary experience that he was faced with a startling realization. Many of the priests were not celibate! We’re not talking about the future priests here, i.e. the seminary students. This is about the seasoned veteran priests! Even the higher level ones—the monsignors and bishops! Many of them had homosexual affairs going on amongst each other. Others had girl friends on the side, and children out of wedlock. As long as they were quiet about their extracurricular activities, there were no repercussions and their careers suffered no harm. In fact, many continued to receive promotions within the Church.
The sex scandals among Catholic priests are much more prevalent than anyone of the outside can possibly imagine according to Father Cutie. The few reports that get into the news media are barely the tip of the iceberg. This fact is well known on all levels of the Catholic Church hierarchy but is routinely covered up, brushed aside, ignored, overlooked and offending clergy are typically reassigned to another parish. The focus is on protecting the image of the Church when the highest priority should be on faithfully shepherding the flock and glorifying God instead of the Church.
In spite of his disappointment with the state of the Church, Father Cutie continued with his steadfast commitment to God and to the flock he was responsible for shepherding. He did not intend to let his disappointments deter him from his higher calling. Everything continued as it should until—Father Cutie fell in love! He became attracted to a beautiful woman who began attending his church. She was quiet and pious and did not try to entice him. Cutie tried to resist his feelings for her for quite a long time.
Over time, his resistance began to wear down. Why? He still loved God as much as he always had. He still loved his job as much as he always had. Why was this happening? After much meditation and soul searching, Father Cutie realized that, despite his satisfaction with his chosen profession, he couldn’t dispel the fact that he was lonely and needed human love. Priests don’t lose their humanity when they become priests, as much as their congregants would like to believe they live on a higher spiritual plane of existence. He realized he craved the encouragement, support, and relationship intimacy that only a soul mate could provide. The few instances of verbal encouragement she gave him broke down all the walls he had erected within to maintain his priestly veneer.
Before he knew it, he was involved in a romance. This continued for about a year without any apparent untoward ramifications until—they were spotted together on the beach and photographed! It was soon turned into a public scandal.
Unlike other priests who tried to deny their secret dalliances, Father Cutie felt like he should be honest and straight forward about the whole situation. The fallout of this decision was that the Catholic Church completely turned their back on him. This was because the priority of the Church was the reputation of the Church, not the emotional and personal well-being of the people involved.
Though Cutie and his now wife Ruhama were deeply hurt by the treatment they received by the church as well as many friends and acquaintances, they have come through it stronger. The story ends happily—I won’t ruin it here.
I have always been of the opinion that it was wrong for the Catholic Church to forbid priests to marry. There is nothing in the Bible that commands celibacy. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 7:9 “but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
We know that the Apostle Peter was married because Matthew 8:14 says “Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.” So obviously Peter, the purported founder of the Catholic Church was not celibate.
Father Cutie states in the book that the practice of celibacy of priests didn’t start until 1200 years later. It was never practiced among the original church fathers! He says in the book that most priests were married until the Middle Ages when the Catholic hierarchy became concerned that the Church was losing much of its wealth and land when married priests bequeathed their assets and land to their heirs instead of the church. Thus the supposed reason for celibacy—that the priests would have more time and energy to serve God and the Church instead of being distracted by earthly concerns—was just a pretext.
Cutie states “It is as if the Church prefers its clergy to be spiritually and emotionally healthy, but sexually castrated.”
Throughout the book Cutie questions the authority of the Church, though he carefully avoids stepping on the holy ground of questioning the infallibility of the Pope.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it. It is very provocative and seriously challenges the policies and practices of the Catholic Church.
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