By now, you’ve heard about the scandal (if such a word applies) of Father Cutié. He’s the Latino priest in Florida who was recently caught with his hands stuffed in the bikini of a hottie on the beach.
Apparently, the priest has had a longtime affair with the woman, so Catholics everywhere are relieved that at least she’s a girlfriend and not a prostitute or underage minor or, of course, an altar boy.
Father Cutié has apologized for breaking his celibacy vow, and it remains to be seen what punishment the Church will dish out. This wouldn’t be big news except that the man is a young, charismatic guy with a media presence.
And of course, there’s that whole Hispanic thing.
As Time magazine points out, “America’s Catholic bishops… must realize that Cutié is more well regarded among Catholics than they are, especially among Latinos.” This means that if he’s run out of the Church, he just may take a lot of Hispanics with him.
Indeed, anecdotal evidence implies that Cutié’s parishioners are remarkably forgiving of his transgression.
“This wasn’t some dirty little tryst in the back of the parish residence,” said one of his followers. “It doesn’t appear to be just about sex. It’s about intimacy.”
I’d like to think that this newfound tolerance will show up in other areas, such as addressing the tendency of Hispanic Catholics to be homophobic and dismissive of women’s rights. But in reality, it’s not that Latino Catholics are finally saying, “Let’s lighten up with the arbitrary rules and be more understanding of human nature.” It’s probably just because male Catholics relate to the temptation that Cutié endured, and a lot of Latina Catholics think the guy is hot.
Regardless of the shallowness of its origin, however, it would indeed be ironic if the Catholic Church inched toward some kind of progressive stance because its Hispanic base got fired up.
And that has to be on the mind of the Church’s leaders. Time magazine goes on to point out that “a bigger problem for the Church may be Cutié’s Oprah-like standing in the Latino community — the only demographic where U.S. Catholicism is experiencing growth.”
That’s right. Hispanics, as I’ve pointed out many times before, are the present and future of the Catholic Church. Although I dropped out of the Church long ago, I still find it interesting that Latinos have such power over this massive institution.
Now if only we could spread some of that influence to politics, economic matters, pop culture, and social policy. Then we would be on to something.