CBS’s Rodriguez Calls For End of ‘Rigid’ Vow of Celibacy in Catholic Church

Maggie Rodriguez and Father Thomas Williams, CBS While reporting on a popular Miami priest, Father Alberto Cutie, getting caught on a beach with a woman, on Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with CBS religion analyst Father Thomas Williams and criticized the Catholic Church for requiring a vow of celibacy for priests: "The Catholic Church, as you know, has been criticized, and you and I have talked about this, for being outdated and losing both parishioners and people who may want to serve, because it is so rigid. Do you think it's time for the Catholic Church to reconsider the vow of celibacy that it requires of its priests?" Williams replied: "Well, I'm not really sure. I think you can't attribute an act of unfaithfulness to the institution itself. It would be kind of like saying that adultery is caused by marriage. It doesn't really make sense."

Just before talking to Williams, Rodriguez admitted: "I should, in the interest of full disclosure, say that Father Albert is a family friend whom I've known for many, many years." At the end of the segment, Rodriguez added: "Yeah, just a couple of weeks ago he [Father Cutie] officiated my niece's wedding. I haven't talked to her about how she feels about this. But yeah, we've known him for many, many years. And he wants to continue serving God." Instead of taking Rodriguez off the story because of this personal connection, its appears CBS kept her on it because they thought it added an interesting angle, even if it made objectivity impossible.

After asking Father Williams if the Catholic Church should eliminate the vow of celibacy, Rodriguez later asked him: "I guess what people might be curious about is why this vow of celibacy is so important. Isn't it almost setting a nearly impossible standard? You, as a man, as a human being, isn't that a difficult vow to keep?" Williams explained: "Well, personally, Maggie, I really think that it's no more difficult than to be faithful -- to be faithful to one's celibacy -- than it is to be faithful to one woman or to one man. I don't think that married people really have a huge advantage there."

Rodriguez continued to press him on the issue: "But why is it required?" Williams replied: "Well, really, the idea is, a closer following of Christ, who himself was celibate, and really to be able to dedicate yourself fully to your parish, to your people, to be able to be -- to move around without the worries of, you know, a wife and children and simply be able to give yourself to that."

The Thursday segment was the second time the Early Show went after the Catholic Church this week. On Tuesday, correspondent Allen Pizzey reported from Rome on the premiere of the movie "Angels & Demons," a sequel to the anti-Catholic film "The Da Vinci Code." Pizzey explained: "The Vatican spokesman said there will be no comment on 'Angels & Demons,' because, quote, 'we don't want to give these people any more publicity.' Publicity is confined mostly to buses, the Vatican denies it asked that no posters be put up near churches. But director Ron Howard claimed the Church used its influence to impede filming." A clip of Ron Howard was played: "Well, it's always been unofficial, you know. And so, you know, it's possible it could be my paranoia in a way. But if so, it's a group paranoia."

Media Research Center President and NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell, recently wrote a column about Howard’s continual bashing of the Church.

Pizzey concluded his report by exclaiming: "Many of the scenes had to be shot as recreations, which some critics have called miraculous...But it is, after all, just a movie, no matter what the Church may see."

Here is the full transcript of the Thursday segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: A scandal engulfs Miami's archdiocese after a well-known priest is caught in a compromising position with a young woman. We'll tell you why it has a community divided.

7:13AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: And it's being called the real-life 'Thorn Birds.' We'll tell you about the TV star priest who lost his job due to some scandalous photos.

7:30AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But first, it's being called the real-life 'Thorn Birds.' A celebrity priest in south Florida has left his parish, and his popular radio show, after steamy photos emerged of him with a woman on the beach. CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella has the story.

ALBERTO CUTIE: If you don't have a solid foundation, it's impossible to have a lasting marriage.

KELLY COBIELLA: To those who know him, Father Alberto Cutie is much more than a parish priest. He's 'Father Oprah.' A charismatic TV talk show host, radio personality, and newspaper columnist, dispensing advice just about everywhere to anyone. This is him on the NBC show 'Mama's Boy.'

CUTIE: You're the only one that can cut the umbilical cord.

COBIELLA: Now it's Cutie who's in need of counsel, because of a cover story in a Mexican celebrity magazine, TV Notas. Two dozen pictures in this week's issue show the handsome priest in a swimsuit, lying on the sand in Miami beach, striking an intimate pose with a woman. The Archbishop of Miami removed him from his church, and took him off the air.

MARY ROSS AGOSTA [ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI]: It's not what, when you're ordained a priest, the behavior that would be considered appropriate.

COBIELLA: Yet many of his parishioners disagree, saying it's time for the Catholic Church to change.

VANESSA LORIGA [PARISHIONER]: He's human, just like why can pastors have a wife, and you know, and teach people the word of God and everything. Why can't they do it? What's so abnormal about them?

COBIELLA: Father Cutie isn't weighing in just yet. In a statement, he admitted nothing, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to continue serving God. Kelly Cobiella, CBS News, Miami Beach.

RODRIGUEZ: Joining us now from Rome is CBS News faith and religion analyst Father Thomas Williams. Good morning, Father Thomas.

THOMAS WILLIAMS: Hi, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: I should, in the interest of full disclosure, say that Father Albert is a family friend whom I've known for many, many years. Father Williams, I would like to ask you if you believe that the archdiocese has reacted appropriately to this, or have they been too harsh?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think the first thing you have to do is get him back settled on his feet. They're certainly not excommunicating him or stripping him of his ministry. They're simply saying that now's not a good time to continue with a very public face or to be running a parish. And I think that makes good sense. And it doesn't mean that he won't have further ministry in the future, it's just kind of to temporarily quell the problem.

RODRIGUEZ: The Catholic Church, as you know, has been criticized, and you and I have talked about this, for being outdated and losing both parishioners and people who may want to serve, because it is so rigid. Do you think it's time for the Catholic Church to reconsider the vow of celibacy that it requires of its priests? Because other arms of Christianity, and certainly many other faiths, do not require that?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm not really sure. I think you can't attribute an act of unfaithfulness to the institution itself. It would be kind of like saying that adultery is caused by marriage. It doesn't really make sense. Or malpractice is caused by medicine. In the sense that we all make commitments. Sometimes we fail at those commitments. It doesn't mean the commitments in themselves are bad, it just means that we are human and to paraphrase a bumper sticker, 'sin happens.' And it happens in all of our lives, it's something we know, we try to repent, we try to get back on our feet again, we ask God's forgiveness, and we try to keep going.

RODRIGUEZ: I guess what people might be curious about is why this vow of celibacy is so important. Isn't it almost setting a nearly impossible standard? You, as a man, as a human being, isn't that a difficult vow to keep?

WILLIAMS: Well, personally, Maggie, I really think that it's no more difficult than to be faithful -- to be faithful to one's celibacy -- than it is to be faithful to one woman or to one man. I don't think that married people really have a huge advantage there. And a lot of married people are unfaithful to their husbands or wives in the same way that priests sometimes are. And I don't think that it's something unique to the priesthood that people have a hard time being chaste or having a hard time being, you know, faithful to whatever vows they might have.

RODRIGUEZ: But why is it required?

WILLIAMS: Well, really, the idea is, a closer following of Christ, who himself was celibate, and really to be able to dedicate yourself fully to your parish, to your people, to be able to be -- to move around without the worries of, you know, a wife and children and simply be able to give yourself to that. And also to set kind of a -- people have an easier time sometimes, they tell me this anyway, speaking to someone who's given himself to God, than they do to someone who kind of lives in the same milieu that they do.

RODRIGUEZ: In the last seconds, Father, what do you say to parishioners who may feel betrayed by Father Albert?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I'm sorry. And it always is a sad thing when someone's unfaithful to their responsibilities, especially a big public figure like this. But we have to recognize that sin is part of our human nature. And we have to make room for people's -- for people's foibles and for people's errors. Remember the case in the Gospel where someone commits adultery and Jesus says, 'well the one who never committed a sin throw the first stone.' All of us, you know, all of us are sinful. All of us need forgiveness and we should be, you know, forgiving of others, as well.

RODRIGUEZ: Father Thomas Williams, as always, thank you. Nice speaking with you this morning.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. You too, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, It's an interesting debate.

SMITH: And you've known him. You've known this Father in question?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, just a couple of weeks ago he officiated my niece's wedding. I haven't talked to her about how she feels about this. But yeah, we've known him for many, many years. And he wants to continue serving God.

SMITH: Let's get some weather this morning. Dave is back with no excuses.

DAVE PRICE: Although I'm big into forgiveness for errors made (pointing to weather map).

[LAUGHTER]

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC