While abstinence, short-term or long-term, is generally a personal decision, it is also a stipulation for clergy members of certain churches, most notably those of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s safe to say that a good number of us have, at one point or another, wondered at the motivation strong enough to induce anyone to promise life-long abstinence. While the requirement for abstinence is made clear to potential priests or nuns long before they take their oaths, we have to wonder, especially in light of recent events, how fair it truly is to demand it of them.
It’s no secret that the Roman Catholic Church continues to be plagued by child sexual abuse cases. Thousands of priests in various countries have been accused of molesting children. The latest case centers on an entirely different type of relationship. Father Alberto Cutié, a Cuban radio and TV broadcaster and best selling author from Miami, as well as an influential favorite in the large catholic Latino community, was discovered to have been in a committed romantic relationship for the past several years with 35-year-old Ruhama Buni Canellis.
There are some people who have questioned whether or not the rules of the church are at least partly to blame for the many cases of sexual abuse, paternity cases, and the latest case of Rev. Alberto. After all, sex is a very normal part of life, and it doesn’t seem quite fair to ask anyone to deny their natural urges. If Catholic clergy members were allowed to be in romantic relationships, marry, and thus have sex, it seems likely that there would be- if not a complete elimination of sexual abuse cases- at least a large decline in the number.
While Rev. Alberto, now a member of the Episcopal Church, has repeatedly insisted he does not want to be the anti-celibacy priests and believes in celibacy for other priests, he has also openly admitted that being celibate could not work for him, and that he does not feel guilt or horror because he loves Canellis, and love is only human.
Many, including the Roman Catholic Church, have condemned Father Alberto’s actions, because it’s impossible not to understand that a commitment to celibacy is a prerequisite to priesthood, and Father Alberto broke his vows. Since Father Alberto was honest enough, though admittedly after having been exposed by compromising photos in a tabloid magazine, to admit his actions and defend his relationship, many others don’t see much to condemn. After all, he had a consensual, healthy relationship with a 35-year-old businesswoman and mother of two- a welcome chance.