CBS’s Rodriguez: Catholic Church Too ‘Stringent,’ Should Be ‘More Progressive’

Maggie Rodriguez and Father Thomas Williams, CBS While reporting on disgraced priest Alberto Cutie leaving the Catholic Church in the wake of a sex scandal, on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked CBS News analyst Father Thomas Williams about the Church’s celibacy rule: "It seems to me that the Catholic Church, at least in south Florida, is not necessarily being introspective and considering whether Father Cutie and others have left the Catholic Church, and others are failing to join, because of its stringent rules. Would you like to see your church be more introspective, more progressive?"

When the story about Father Cutie first broke in early May, Rodriguez then asked Father Williams if it was time for the Catholic Church to overturn the "outdated" and "rigid" vow of celibacy that it requires of its priests. She went on to describe the vow as a "nearly impossible standard." On May 11, Rodriguez interviewed Cutie, and asked: "You don't believe that the celibacy promise should be lifted?...If they don't change this policy, do you think that they will continue to lose people, or fail to recruit people who feel the Church is too rigid?"

On Friday, Rodriguez also spoke with Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade, who officiated Father Cutie’s conversion, and briefly acknowledged that Cutie actually did something wrong: "He broke an oath and he lived a lie for two years. Are you concerned at all about the message that you're sending your parishioners by inviting someone like that into your church?" Frade argued: "Father Cutie is a single person, loving another single person, and when you have to obey your heart, indeed, what – the teaching that he could tell our people is that love is able to conquer everything."

Rodriguez turned that argument to Father Williams: "Do you agree that you have to obey your heart no matter what oath or promise you made?" Williams pointed out: "Well, I think that that is sometimes true, but sometimes not, in the sense that we all make commitments that we have to be true to. And that sometimes means going against natural tendencies or inclinations. I mean that happens with married people also, where all of a sudden they feel like they've fallen in love with someone else but they have to be true to the person that they promised to."

Here is the full transcript of the Friday segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: A controversial priest packs up his robes, and leaves the Catholic Church.

ALBERTO CUTIE: I have searched my soul and sought after God's guidance for a long time.

SMITH: The story behind the conversion of Father Cutie.

7:19AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up next here on the Early Show, the Catholic priest caught on a Miami beach with a woman has a fiancee and a new church. We'll bring you the latest on Father Cutie.

7:30AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But first this morning, Florida's most famous Catholic priest has just become its newest Episcopalian. This after that sex scandal that rocked the Church and shocked its – his followers. CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports.

KELLY COBIELLA: With reporters in front of him and his new fiancee behind him, Father Alberto Cutie announced he's trading his Catholic collar for an Episcopalian one.

ALBERTO CUTIE: I have searched my soul and sought after God's guidance for a long time. I have also spoken to friends in and outside the Episcopal Church about their service to God. I have seen the ways that many of my brothers serve God as married men.

COBIELLA: The TV priest fans call ‘Father Oprah’ fell from grace in the eyes of the Catholic Church two weeks ago. This is why, Cutie was caught on camera kissing the woman he now plans to marry. The Catholic Church removed him from his post. On the Early Show, Cutie confessed.

CUTIE: This is the only person that I've had sexual contact with.

RODRIGUEZ: And it's because you fell in love with her?

CUTIE: I believe I've fallen love.

COBIELLA: But he showed no interest in taking on the Catholic Church's 900-year-old celibacy rule.

CUTIE: I don't want to be the anti-celibacy priest. I think that's unfortunate. I think it’s a debate that’s going on in our society and now I’ve become kind of a poster boy for it. But I don't want to be that.

COBIELLA: Thursday, the Archbishop of Miami accused Cutie of abandoning his church and flock.

JOHN FAVALORA: Father Cutie’s actions have caused grave scandal within Catholic Church and led to division with the ecumenical community, and the community at large. Today's announcement only deepens that wound.

CUTIE: Those who know me understand that I would never want to hurt anyone deliberately, especially my family, my friends, and the church community. I will always love and hold dear the Roman Catholic Church.

COBIELLA: So instead of fighting it, he's leaving it. Kelly Cobiella, CBS News, Miami.

RODRIGUEZ: Joining us now from Miami is Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal diocese in southeast Florida, who officiated the service in which Father Cutie and his fiancee converted. And from Rome this morning, we have with us CBS News analyst, Catholic priest, Father Thomas Williams. Good morning to you both, gentlemen.

LEO FRADE: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: Let me begin with you, Bishop Frade, why did you welcome Father Cutie into your church?

FRADE: Well, Father Cutie is a member of our community, and he -- we have been talking to him as friends. We know each other from the year 2000. We're both Cubans, and dealing in ecumenical and also trying to bring a peaceful change in Cuba. And he became more and more interested in our church, and showed that interest, and with time, about two years, it has been a long search for him, because he did not want to leave the Catholic faith. Actually, he traded his collar, his Roman Catholic collar for another different of Catholic collar, which is the Anglican, the Episcopal collar.

RODRIGUEZ: Bishop Frade, I know that Father Cutie believes, because he said it on this program, that what he did was wrong. He broke an oath and he lived a lie for two years. Are you concerned at all about the message that you're sending your parishioners by inviting someone like that into your church?

FRADE: Well, for a single person kissing and loving another single woman, I think that a scandal would have been if he would have been -- if she would have been a married woman or something like that. But Father Cutie is a single person, loving another single person, and when you have to obey your heart, indeed, what – the teaching that he could tell our people is that love is able to conquer everything.

RODRIGUEZ: Father Williams, let me bring you in. Do you agree that you have to obey your heart no matter what oath or promise you made?

THOMAS WILLIAMS: Well, I think that that is sometimes true, but sometimes not, in the sense that we all make commitments that we have to be true to. And that sometimes means going against natural tendencies or inclinations. I mean that happens with married people also, where all of a sudden they feel like they've fallen in love with someone else but they have to be true to the person that they promised to. So I think that it's both things are true. But you do have to be true to your commitments and your vows.

RODRIGUEZ: Father Williams, we heard the Archbishop down there in south Florida say that Father Cutie harmed and divided the church. It seems to me that the Catholic Church, at least in south Florida, is not necessarily being introspective and considering whether Father Cutie and others have left the Catholic Church, and others are failing to join, because of its stringent rules. Would you like to see your church be more introspective, more progressive?

WILLIAMS: Well, I definitely think we have to be introspective all the time. The first person that we need to examine, whose conscience we need to examine, is always our own before we start pointing fingers elsewhere. I agree with that 100%. On the other hand, I'm really hopeful that Father Cutie has made this decision to become Episcopalian because he really believes it's a true church and not because of some other motive. That's my one hope. And the fact that he's been speaking with Bishop Frade for years actually gives me hope that that might be the case. That he really believes that what he's doing is the right thing.

RODRIGUEZ: Father Thomas Williams, Bishop Frade, thank you both for taking the time this morning.

FRADE: Pleasure, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: You’re welcome

WILLIAMS: Pleasure.

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