MIAMI – A Catholic priest caught on film in a compromising clinch with a person of the opposite sex has been relieved of his duties with the Archdiocese of Miami pending an investigation and potential disciplinary action.
Father Alberto Cutié [pronounced “KOO-tee-ay”], 39, is on leave from his position as head of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Miami Beach and as president of the archdiocese’s Radio Paz and Radio Peace broadcasts. For 11 years Cutié also hosted TV talk shows on the Telemundo network. His millions of fans in 22 countries dubbed him “Father Oprah.”
He was ordained in 1995.
The scandal began when Spanish-language magazine TV Notas let it be known its May 6 issue would contain photos allegedly showing the Puerto Rico-born priest caressing and kissing a young brunette woman on Miami Beach and in a bar. The images were snapped by paparazzi in February, according to TV Notas.
The archdiocese plans to name a new administrator for Cutie’s church and a new priest to take over Cutié’s broadcast duties.
“I am deeply saddened by the news surrounding Father Alberto Cutié,” Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora noted in an official statement. “Father Cutié made a promise of celibacy, and all priests are expected to fulfill that promise with the help of God. I ask for everyone’s prayers at this time.
“Father Cutié’s actions cannot be condoned despite the good works he has done as a priest,” Favalora continued. “I ask for everyone’s prayers at this time. Scandals such as this offer an occasion for the Church on all levels to examine our consciences regarding the integrity of our commitments to the Lord and to his Church.”
Parishioners came to Cutié’s defense.
“I would have condemned him if it would have been a young boy, but it was a woman,” Zunilda Junco, 81, told the Miami Herald.
“He hasn’t killed anyone,” Dominga Jimenez, 83, added.
“Or raped anyone,” Junco said.
Others refused to believe the news.
“He’s a saint,” Amelia Ortiz told CBS News.
“The pictures are false and manipulated,” Maria Martinez said. “He’s a good man. He’s good for the community. I don’t believe these pictures. It’s impossible. It’s impossible that he would do something like that.”
Cutié, who according to a diocese spokeswoman is “on a spiritual journey,” released his own statement on Tuesday.
“Before God — full of love and mercy — I ask for the forgiveness of those who may be hurt or saddened by my actions. Since I entered the seminary at the age of 18, the priesthood has brought me great joy. The commitment that I made to serve God will remain intact. I am grateful for the love and support I have received today from so many in our community, especially my parishioners and the supporters of the radio stations who have demonstrated great compassion and understanding toward me as a human being. I ask for your continued prayers and support.”