Faithful supporters of Father Alberto Cutié have expressed shock and disbelief after photos of the celebrity priest in a Spanish language magazine showed him kissing and fondling a woman on Miami Beach, CBS Station WFOR-TV reports.
Tuesday the Archdiocese of Miami relieved Father Cutié of his duties at St. Francis de Sales parish on Miami Beach and at the Catholic radio station, Radio Peace and Radio Paz.
"This is a difficult day for everyone in the Archdiocese of Miami," said Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta. "We pray for Father Alberto."
The photographs, which will be published Thursday in the TV NOTAS Magazine, show Cutié and an unidentified woman caressing and kissing while in bathing suits on the beach. Sources say the photos were taken in February.
Some of the photos were obtained by the Miami Herald, and they showed Cutié locked in an embrace with the woman. The photographer has also not been identified, but according to the Herald, he had initially tried to sell the photos to MEGATV for several thousand dollars. But his offer was turned down.
The photos raise a question: did Cutié, who was ordained as a priest in 1995, break his church-cherished vow of celibacy?
"The vow of celibacy really means there is a commitment outside the vow that stresses the focus on the holy order," said Ross Agosta. "The vow of celibacy is there for a reason."
She said Cutié's future is not clear, and also said Cutié had been traveling and would now "do what he had to do."
"He's on a prayerful journey," said Ross Agosta. "He's still a priest, but he is on leave."
She said a new administrator is being named for the church and said Father Jose Hernando would now run the Catholic radio station.
Since 1998, Father Cutié has hosted several Spanish-language talk shows and programs. He's been seen in 24 million homes in 22 countries. He writes a syndicated newspaper advice column called "Advice from a friend." He's been dubbed "Father Oprah" by his fans. He also was published. His book is "Real Life, Real Love: 7 paths to a strong and lasting relationship." He was the son of Cuban parents. He grew up in Miami and attended Southwest High School.
Many parishioners were in disbelief when they learned of the photos.
"He's a saint," said Amelia Ortiz.
"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."
Another parishioner, Maria Cerna, said of Cutié, "He's a good man. He usually helps everybody, like the young people. He's a gentleman. Oh my God, I don't believe it. I don't believe it."
However, Fr. Cutié did release the following statement:
"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."
Monday, Archbishop John Favalora released this statement:
"I am deeply saddened by the news surrounding Father Alberto Cutié. I apologize on behalf of the Church in Miami to the parishioners of Saint Francis de Sales Parish, where he serves as administrator, to the listeners and supporters of Radio Paz and Radio Peace, and to the entire Archdiocese.
Father Cutié made a promise of celibacy and all priests are expected to fulfill that promise with the help of God.
Father Cutié's actions cannot be condoned despite the good works he has done as a priest. 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."