Most of these clergy have served with competence, even distinction. A few have been problematic. At least three that I am aware of have "re-swum" the Tiber in the other direction (though, having left and then married, not been offered access to the Pastoral Provision). As one who is himself called to the vocation of marriage, I am unable to work up a high degree of empathy for what it might feel like to embrace a call to celibacy. Consequently, I have tended to have great sympathy and compassion for those who feel themselves called to both ordination and marriage, and glad, for their sakes, to be part of a church that allows them to respond to both vocations.
At one level, yesterday's announcement that Father Alberto Cutie (OK, I know my inability to put an accent on the final letter of his last name only accentuates the snicker quotient of the whole episode) has joined the Episcopal Church is just one more vessel in the familiar stream. (For the record, I am more than amply aware that there is a parallel stream flowing the other direction, though obviously for different reasons; I know my share of voyagers in that one as well.)
Yet, there is an unsavory aura surrounding the news that I find quite unfortunate, and unsettling. Fr Cutie is a local celebrity in Miami. He is fluently bilingual and was a charismatic media figure on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in south Florida, particularly among the Cuban-American community. At the press conference held at Trinity Cathedral on the occasion of his reception into TEC by Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, he insisted that this was not a quick decision, but the result of a months-long discernment process.
I have no knowledge, of course, of what is actually in the man's heart and mind. I'm going to assume that he's telling the truth. But he certainly has a PR problem with regard to his credibility. Few will doubt that the timing of his swim up the Thames to Canterbury was influenced, if not determined, by the tabloid photos that appeared barely a couple of weeks ago, showing him amorously involved with the woman who is now his fiance.
Then there's the matter of the way he left the Roman obedience. It has the character not of a discerned transition, but a sudden defection. His now former bishop is understandably not amused, and has declared the incident a setback to ecumenical relations between the two involved churches. On a local level, at least, this can scarcely be doubted. Sadly, a high emotional level has led to a rhetorical shouting match between the respective bishops. In my opinion--this time not very humble--Bishop Frade has misplayed the hand he was dealt, not very subtly condemning the very notion of a rule of celibacy for clergy, and asserting Anglican practice in this regard as inherently superior. I'm more than happy to be in an ecclesial tradition that allows clerical marriage. But I do not consider myself either qualified or entitled to sit in judgment over another communion that, for reasons their leaders consider compelling, embrace a different discipline. The sort of exchange that has ensued between the two bishops is never salutary.
I wish Fr Cutie well in his new life as a married man, and--fairly soon, one presumes--as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I wish for him what I wish for any celebrity--that he be left alone by the media, both secular and religious. I also hope that both he and his new diocese resist any temptation to exploit this transition as an opportunity for Episcopal "evangelism" among his fan base. It is manifestly not that.