On Tuesday's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos highlighted and promoted a new book by Albert Cutie, an ex-priest who left the Catholic Church after being caught in a relationship with a woman in his parish. An ABC graphic blasted, "'Father Oprah' Lashes out, Calls Church 'Misogynistic.'"
Stephanopoulos gently introduced Cutie, who was photographed by the paparazzi with his then-girlfriend at the beach, this way: "...But first, the story of how a stolen kiss caught on camera forced him to choose between the church he served and the woman he loved." Regarding gays in the church, the host marveled, "But, you say there's, there's great hypocrisy, many, many times."
At times, Stephanopoulos simply parroted quotes from Dilemma, Cutie's new book. He also blandly commented, "You seem a man at peace with your decision."
At one point, Stephanopoulos recited, "You're pretty tough on the Catholic Church in this book. One of the things you write is that 'celibacy is not something the Catholic Church takes seriously.' What did you mean by that?"
The GMA co-host did challenge his guest somewhat, pressing, "You - had a secret relationship for some time, until those photos were snapped by, by the paparazzi. Why not come out before you were caught?"
A transcript of the January 4 segment, which aired at 8:06am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Many faiths, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, allow their clerics to marry. But as you probably know, Roman Catholic priests are required to stay single and celibate, which is why there was such a controversy when a prominent Catholic priest in Florida left his Church so that he could marry a woman he met and fell in love with in his parish. Father Albert Cutie has written a book about the controversy, it's called 'Dilemma." And we'll speak with him in a moment, but first, the story of how a stolen kiss caught on camera forced him to choose between the church he served and the woman he loved. They're photos Father Albert Cutie thought he'd never see. His wedding day. Holding his new baby girl. A family created only after a gut wrenching decision.
ABC Graphic: "Father Oprah" Lashes out, Calls Church "Misogynistic"
ARCHBISHOP JOHN FAVALORA (ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI): Father Cutie's actions have caused great scandal within the Catholic Church.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because Cutie was a Roman Catholic priest when these photos were snapped by paparazzi two years ago. That's Cutie with his girlfriend, Ruhama. The scandal cost the popular priest his job as head of a Miami parish. In his new book, he says it was a relationship he tried desperately to avoid. "More than once I said to Ruhama, you should find someone who's free to love you. She would respond that it wasn't her choice to fall in love with a priest. But she couldn't help it, either." And neither could Cutie.
FATHER ALBERT CUTIE: Today I come before this community that I have tried to serve and continue to love with all my heart, to announce that I am continuing the call to spread the message of God's love.
STEPHANOPOULOS: After 14 years as a Catholic priest, Cutie became an Episcopalian. He now leads a new parish, with his wife, Ruhama and his family by his side. "For a long time," he writes, "I endured a tug-of-war between something that was good, my love of God, and another thing that was good, my love for the woman I wanted to honor and cherish in marriage. Now I believe that both were given to me by the same God, who is ultimately the source of all love." And Father Albert Cutie joins us now. You seem a man at peace with your decision.
CUTIE: I am at peace. And I think it's good for people to know, that behind the stories that you see in tabloids, there's, there's something else. It's the actual person involved in the story. And I have quite a story to tell.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you have a daughter now. You wrote that marriage has helped you become a better priest. Do you expect that fatherhood as well, fatherhood will as well?
CUTIE: I think being a father is something you should never be deprived of. I think that it's part of life. I always thought my father and my uncles and the people in my family, as being role models. And I hope that I can do the same for my child and for the children that may come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this was not a decision that came easily to you. You - had a secret relationship for some time, until those photos were snapped by, by the paparazzi. Why not come out before you were caught?
CUTIE: That's part of the dilemma. When you are raised in a culture that tells you this is the way to be a priest, celibacy is that tug-of-war that I talk about. And actually I always say that celibacy works for some priests some of the time. But it does not work for most priests most of the time. A lot of priests struggle with these things. And remember, violation of celibacy is not just getting caught with a secret girlfriend or boyfriend in the case of some priests. The truth is a violation of celibacy can be watching pornography on the internet, masturbation even. Basic human sexual expressions are violations of celibacy. And that's, that's part of the problem that it has a lot to do with controlling someone's sexual life, your desire for intimacy, your desire for that connection with another human being.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I come from a tradition that allows priests to marry. My father is a Greek orthodox priest, my grandfather, my uncle. And - so I'm familiar with the arguments you make about how being a father, being a family man can actually make you a better priest. But what about the argument, Ruhama, your wife, was in your parish at the time, and and and- at least in our church, you can be married and then become a priest, but once you're a priest, that's it, because of that power relationship that can be exploited by priests. How do you respond to that?
CUTIE: It's interesting because that does happen if in your, in your mind, you really believe that you have this power over people. I never felt like I had a power over people, especially over Ruhama, because she's an adult, you know, we're about the same age. She's five years younger than me. But there was never a situation where I felt I used my situation to get involved with her. On the contrary, we avoided each other for a long time. I always say it's like magnets that attract, that no matter how much you try to pull them apart, they still come together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You fought it for years?
CUTIE: We did. We did. We both did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're pretty tough on the Catholic Church in this book. One of the things you write is that 'celibacy is not something the Catholic Church takes seriously.' What did you mean by that?
CUTIE: I think that on the outside, there are all these rules, you know, the church appears antiseptic, like Listerine, you know, we have no germs. But then when scandals come out, then the church reacts to those scandals. What I was surprised in my situation, and the reason where perhaps you see that I'm critical, is that what I'm really, really bothered by is the fact that you would respond to this situation, between an adult consenting female and an adult male, both of them single, in such a harsh way. But when priests are caught in other situations, sometimes there's no statement. Sometimes there's no public declaration. And I think that some of that has to do with the church's dysfunction. I don't think I'm critical of the Catholic Church, to tell you the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you say there's, there's great hypocrisy, many, many times.
CUTIE: I'm critical of that dysfunction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because you say that, for example, "There are so many homosexuals both active and celibate at all levels of clergy and church hierarchy that the church would never be able to function if they were really to exclude all of them from the ministry."
CUTIE: I think it's hypocritical to say in statements, like we've seen recently, oh, we're not going to have gay seminarians. No more homosexuals in the priesthood. We're not admitting people to the priesthood. And I say, well, what are you gonna do with hundreds of thousands of priests that already are here serving? And they're good men.
STEPHANOPOULOS: At the highest levels of the church, you write.
CUTIE: At the highest levels. Some of them, I - know honor celibacy and do it quite well and are happy men and are integrated sexually. But some are not, and the church knows it. So, I think just insisting on celibacy for everyone is a problem. Not that celibacy is bad, I don't want to tell people, oh, celibacy is bad all across. No. But insisting that every diocese and secular priest make a promise of celibacy as part of that commitment, it's never been part of the tradition. 40 popes were married. And for 1,200 years, all priests had the option to marry, so I don't think that this is even part of something that's traditional.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're still a priest, but now an Episcopal priest. What do you think you've sacrificed by leaving the Catholic Church?
CUTIE: In the Roman Catholic Church, there's numbers, lots of people. Our churches are smaller, the congregations are smaller. But I believe that many of the people who go to the Roman Catholic Church, even though a lot of them criticize my decision to, to - break the promise of celibacy, I say, but, you know, 80 percent of Roman Catholics don't agree with their church on in vitro fertilization, for example, that's a mortal sin. Tying your tubes. Getting a vasectomy. You know, remarrying after a bad marriage. All of those things are mortal sins, and you can't even go to communion. People go anyway, thank God, you know, it doesn't keep them from communion. But those are the rules of the church. And if you follow those rules, basically, a good percentage of Roman Catholics can't even actively participate in their parishes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. You're clearly a happily married man, family man right now. I have to ask you one final question, why did you go back to the spot where the paparazzi caught you to propose?
CUTIE: Well that was such a publicized spot, you know, first of all, the pictures came out. And what I tried to do is make something that was so negative and had so much negative publicity for us, something positive. And actually it was funny, we kind of laughed. I had to pick a place where I could give her the ring. She had no idea we were going there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And no paparazzi were there?
CUTIE: And no paparazzi. And it was good.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Father Cutie, thanks very much.
CUTIE: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The book is called "Dilemma." And you can learn a lot more about Father Cutie's life struggle and love by reading an excerpt of it at our website, ABCNEWS.COM/GMA.