Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It’s not a boy!

When is it good news that it's not a boy? When it's a woman. That, at least, is my take on the handsome Puerto Rico-born Cuban-American young Catholic priest photographed in an amorous embrace on the beach with ... wait for it ... an attractive, bikini-clad young woman.

The pictures of the priest, Alberto Cutié, also nicknamed Miami's “Padre Oprah,” for his Spanish language television and radio talk shows, appeared in a Spanish gossip magazine called TV Notas, leading to his suspension from parish work by the Archdiocese of Miami.

What the major Anglo press — or the Catholic hierarchy for that matter — doesn't get is the persistent cultural message underlying this kind of incident.

“If only it were the worst thing that a Roman Catholic priest has been caught doing,” Time's Tim Padgett took time out from the earthshaking news to editorialize in his lead. Meanwhile, to The New York Times' reporter Damien Cave, Cutié's problem is that he works in “South Beach, where even the mannequins have extra-large breasts.”

They're missing the point and it's not like they didn't have warning, either. Do you remember the last time a Hispanic clergyman got famously caught swimming in forbidden sexual waters?

It was Bobby Sánchez, the former archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who in the 1980s had more than a dozen angry women after him, once they all found out he was cheating on them with holy mother church.

Truth in commentary: Sánchez headed the U.S. Catholic bishops' Hispanic Affairs Committee, for which I once worked and I'd heard the stories about Sánchez and his womanizing long before it was headline news.

Yet precisely because the Sánchez and Cutié cases lie at the intersection of the two most misreported areas of news —` Hispanics and religion — no one has yet stumbled onto the most notable and historically consistent point that might be made about traditionally Catholic Hispanic men.

They like women.

They love to have a passel of kids with women, occasionally even with more than one woman at a time. Latin American literature, which is the informal sociology about things one does not bring up at the dinner table en familia, is replete with examples of such men – and they all ring true.

Moreover, they absolutely despise the notion of celibacy.

Want homegrown proof right here and now? The number of married Hispanic Catholic permanent deacons in the United States, who carry out some ministerial functions, albeit well short of a priest's, is very many times higher than that of U.S. Hispanic priests.

There are, too, Hispanics with vocations, my esteemed bishops. They just don't want to be celibate.

In Latin America, which has the world's largest Catholic population -- or about 350 million out of the nearly 1 billion Catholics in the world – there are fewer Catholic priests than the number serving the 60 million U.S. Catholics.

Until the very late 20th century, Bolivia, a country to which Spanish missionaries first went in the 1500s, had never had a native-born bishop. As with most of the Latin American Catholic clergy, they had all been imported.

And here's the one point Time and The New York Times should have been able to dig up all on their own: according to a well-known FBI criminal profile, 80 percent of all pedophiles are non-Hispanic white males. Hispanic males comprised a tiny sliver of the remaining 20 percent.

Look at the rogue's gallery of child-raping U.S. priests made infamous in the past decade or so: almost all of them are Irish-American, not Hispanic.

Ready to get an inkling about Hispanics in religion, major news media? Let me beat the horse just one bit deader than a doornail.

Time magazine headline writers had fun with the episode, dubbing the South Beach paparazzi shots "The Father Cutie Scandal." Get it? Alberto Cutié is a “cutie.”

But guess what? Cutié is pronounced coo-tea-EH, not as the Valley-Girl-speak word for handsome. That's OK, when it comes to Hispanics, major media journalists might as well all be Valley Girls.
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