Background: I am not Catholic. I left another major religion 32 years ago after being raised in it and realizing its founder lied. I've been extremely shy of earthly religious authority since then. Bottom line: I trusted God, I didn't trust the egotistical, power-hungry founders of His many religions. I haven't been in the market for another church since leaving that one.
Context: I read Fr. Cutie's book out of curiosity. What I discovered was a man who went through the same grieving/messy divorce process in leaving his childhood church as I went through leaving mine. Men and their religious promises let him down; God did not. Men will probably continue to judge him, but God guided him to find peace with his new life, new family, and his new calling that allows him to do what he wanted to do when he entered the seminary: help people.
Throughout it all, even with the temptations, the changes, the vulnerability and the mistakes, Fr. Cutie remained true to himself, to his God, his original mission to serve. He also remained true to the woman he loves, which is an absolute miracle to me. That's more than the Catholic church has done throughout hundreds of years with their many mistresses, illegitimate children, male and female lovers, sexually abused children and adults, and the whole writhing cauldron of hidden hypocrisy.
The ultimate irony for me is that while God and Fr. Cutie's wife are willing to share him: the Catholic church authorities are not since his relationship with his of-age and obviously willing girlfriend became public. Bottom line: "Sinning" is fine if you're a priest and you keep it hidden (aka 'Don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses'). Once it becomes public, don't expect a listening ear, understanding, help or support from the institution you've given your life to. Expect them to fire you and desert you without warning or notification, and expect they will still want to control you and expect you to submit to that control...or your eternal soul will be in peril.
As I read on, I was saddened that the many years of service and the many lives/souls Fr. Cutie has influenced and helped were as nothing alongside church authorities' greed and demand for absolute power over his life. All would be well if he would submit. Join the laity, give up his love, sit in the back of the church, and forget he was ever a priest. "All we require is that you rip out your heart and that of the woman you love, submit to us, and God will be satisfied." Which God? Their god. I found the solution very...Inquisitional...but then, does the membership of the church realize that the Office of the Inquisition has never been dissolved, it's only had its name changed and one who used to run it is currently the pope? There is a frightening historical continuity to the issues Fr. Cutie raises if anyone cares to read for it; the harsh attitudes of today have very deep, old roots. Unfortunately, they lead back to men and not to Christ.
I came to see that the this church wasn't very different from the major religion I left. One could switch out the men who have assumed authority, and the same attitudes and reactions prevail in both religions. Saddest of all, it's 'we the sheeple' who have handed them that authority, who have allowed these men so greedy for power to place themselves between us and God without compassion or realistic understanding of the challenges, problems and dilemmas we all face as our lives roll on. If there is no compassion or understanding, I suspect it is because the leadership doesn't want it anywhere near them. The priests who have it for the people they serve are destined to serve alone because their goals and way of living within the Church's teachings are so very different from those in authority over them.
While reading "Dilemma," it occurred to me that nothing much seems to have changed in the Catholic church since the medieval ages when there were three branches of society: the nobility, the clergy, and everyone else. The minute Fr. Cutie's "scandal" became public, perhaps it was inevitable that the church authorities would work to shove him out among "everyone else".
Conclusion: Fr. Cutie's writings had an effect on me that I did not expect. As I said above, I haven't been in the market for another religion since leaving [the one that shall not be named]. But after finishing "Dilemma," I found myself being...bugged, for lack of a better word...to investigate the Episcopal church. This bugging has not faded as I expected (perhaps wanted) it to. So I find myself hoping that perhaps there's a church that makes room for people's errors, who know they're fallible and human, who don't expect archetypal behavior from mere men and for the archetypal masks to never slip, or people to never change. Perhaps its members don't stay out of fear, but because they want to. Perhaps its leadership is out there in the world, just trying to make their way home with everyone else.
I live 3,000 miles away from Florida, and am investigating the Episcopal church because of what Fr. Cutie wrote in his book about serving God and trying to lead people closer to God. When the dust finally settles, the paparazzi run out of photos, and the hissing gossips stop talking, Fr. Cutie will still be a husband, a father, and a priest helping to lead souls to God no matter if he's doing that face-to-face, on a television show, or from a pulpit. Fr. Cutie is very clear about who and what he is...and why. That is his constancy, and part of why he is an honorable man.
That's the message I took from this book, and it has nothing to do with scandal, broken vows or whatever label is the religion he serves under. I think it has everything to do with God and remaining true to those he/He loves.