Father Alberto Cutié sat down for his first television interview since the scandal began on The Early Show Monday.
The photos -- 25 in all -- have almost single-handely reignited the debate over the celibacy required of priests by the Catholic Church and the Church's refusal to allow priests to marry.
In the exclusive interview, Cutié -- who wasn't wearing his priest's clothes -- told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez a longtime friendship with the woman became romantic about two years ago, adding that they're in love.
He says he's mulling his next move, which he says could range from breaking up with her to marrying her. The woman, he indicated, wants to marry him.
Conceding he's become "kind of a poster boy" for the debate over priests being celibate, Cutié said priestly celibacy is good, but should be optional.
Overall, he said he's "deeply sorry" about all that's happened.
Rodriguez disclosed last week that her family in Miami Beach has known Cutié well for many years.
Cutié, a handsome, charismatic TV talk show host, radio personality, newspaper columnist and author known to many as "Father Oprah" is seen in images in the Spanish-language magazine TV NOTAS caressing and kissing a woman. Both were in bathing suits. Sources tell CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami the photos were taken in February.
The Archdiocese of Miami has relieved Cutié of his duties at his church and taken him off the air, but many of his parishioners turned out at an emotional rally in Miami Beach on Thursday backing him.
He candidly conceded to Rodriguez Monday, "I don't support the breaking of the celibacy promise. I understand fully that this is wrong.
"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. I believe that celibacy is good, and that it's a good commitment to God. This is something I've struggled with. And something that I never expected to become a public debate ...
"What many say is that maybe it should be optional. And that I do believe: I do believe that people should be given the option to marry or not to marry in order to serve God. But the Church, see, has tradition and practices that are part of wanting to do what is right. I think we've all have ideals, and we have ways of living, and we want to do things right. But the truth is, sometimes we fall short. And I fell short."
Cutié said the woman in ths photos "is someone that I love. ... I entered the seminary 22 years ago. And in 22 years I've never had a sexual relationship with anyone. I committed myself fully to my vows. I've never been sexually inappropriate with anyone. I've never had any type of scandal. This is the only person that I've had sexual contact with.
"I believe I've fallen in love. And I believe that I've struggled with that. You know, between my love for God and my love for the church and my love for service. Of course, it's something that a man should never have to deal with in the sense of his commitment, you know. If I was clear in my commitment, I should have stuck to it 100 percent. And I didn't."
Cutie added he and the woman have "both struggled" with their relationship: "She's also a woman of faith. She's also somebody who cares about the priesthood, who cares about these things. So, it hasn't been easy. And those who have helped me through this process know it hasn't been easy. Obviously, you know, through the photos, it looked like a frivolous thing on the beach, you know, and that's not what it is. It's something deeper than that."
Also, he said bluntly, "The truth is there was no one on the beach. It was a very isolated beach."