Anyway, as I mentioned on Monday, I have been in a bit of a dry spell with reading. That changed when I ended up not sleeping Monday night. Yep, I literally didn't sleep one bit, so I just stayed in bed and grabbed a couple of books. One of them that finally sucked me in was Dilemma by Father Robert Cutie. In our local library, they put out new books, by category or genre on display as you walk in. I always like to look over the new arrivals and noticed Dilemma there. Because I remembered this story from the news and his appearance on Oprah, I was interested to read his take on it all and to catch up with where he is now. So, rather than my typical synopsis and review, I wanted to just dive into a review to tell you more about his story.
His career as a Roman Catholic priest was one part of his life, but the book is really a more interesting internal look at Cutie's interpretation and view of what was going on in the church and in his own life. Because he later met a young woman in one of the churches he served in, felt what he says was a powerful "love at first sight" experience with her, and later followed his heart to acknowledge his love for her and to eventually leave the priesthood to marry her, his story is a type of "how did this happen" retelling. Cutie shares the struggles that priests encounter in being celibate and denying their natural sexual urges. He doesn't ever share his own or what that was like for him (which I found strange), but he does talk about the varied sexual practices going on behind the scenes in the priesthood. From his own experience, he knew of sexual affairs going on in the seminaries between the teachers and seminary students, priests who had girlfriends/boyfriends that they either housed with them or off church property, fathers who had children by a variety of women, and even priests in the upper levels of the Vatican who where famously homosexual with partners there.
|Father Cutie and wife on their wedding day.|
|Fr. Cutie pictured on People magazine w/ wife and baby.|
As I'm not Catholic, I have to say that I was unfamiliar with priests and what they have to do to join the priesthood. Fr. Cutie's explanation of the priesthood and the troubles it encounters were extremely enlightening, especially considering the horrific spread and cover up of sexual abuse that has been uncovered across the country. Cutie shares at a later section of the book that studies within the priesthood show that over half of all priests are homosexual, leading to a serious question about the forced cover up that is actually encouraging men who want to be faithful Catholics to choose priesthood and celibacy as a way of avoiding that lifestyle. The church has recognized this to be a real challenge, and although homosexuality is not a precursor to becoming a pedophile, it has pushed all sexuality into the closet (so to say) and caused some priests to express their desires in secret and undesirable ways. As part of his argument, Cutie takes on sexuality and desire as part of his thesis that the modern church (all churches) need to address sexuality as a part of man's normal, natural development, and to take it out of the shadows of secret and shame. His arguments are strong, and seem to make a great deal of sense from my outside point of view, but I wonder how the Catholic church would tackle these issues of priesthood celibacy, women in the priesthood, and even birth control.
Dilemma is a very well written book, with a well focused point of view. Although I wanted to understand more about his wife, what she thought or felt, or even more of the emotional turmoil behind falling in love, I came to realize that this was not the goal of his story. It is very obvious that his story is not about the agonies of love, but about his struggle with faith. As such, I thought it was an exceptionally written, fine tuned argument about man and faith from his own experience. I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting and did not feel that it was gratuitous or even self-serving for that matter. Yes, Cutie has a bias against celibacy in the priesthood and has strong feelings about problems within the priesthood, but I didn't feel that he was out to convince everyone to like him. His real message was about a problem as he saw and experienced it and his own resolution. Overall, I thought it was very well done.
*FTC Disclosure: This review was based on a library copy of the book.