A popular priest in the Miami Roman Catholic community and on Spanish language television, Alberto Cutié's encouraging advice and open mind earned him the nickname "Father Oprah." But away from the pulpit, the priest struggled with feelings that challenged all his beliefs—he was in love with a woman.
Father Cutié says it was love at first sight when he met divorced mother Ruhama Canellis in 1999. "Our eyes just kind of locked," he says. "As a young man, you kind of feel that energy that is there and you're like: 'How do you turn this off? I'm not allowed to do this.'"
After years of friendship, Father Cutié says the relationship became romantic in 2007. "Certainly I was conflicted because I loved God, and I wanted to be 100 percent faithful to being a celibate priest," he says. "At the same time, I couldn't deny my feelings for this woman."
For the next two years, the couple dated secretly—until paparazzi crashed a quiet date on the beach. "All of a sudden, my girlfriend says to me, 'They're taping us.' And my heart fell to my feet," he says.
Photos of Father Cutié and Ruhama kissing and cuddling on the beach hit the tabloids, sending shock waves through Miami's Catholic community. Father Cutié was soon removed from his parish and apologized to the community for breaking his vows. "The reaction of the church kind of surprised me because we've had priests involved in awful criminal situations," he says. "My situation all of a sudden became the worst thing for the church."
Just two months after the tabloids exposed Father Cutié and Ruhama's relationship, the couple wed in the Episcopal church, where Father Cutié is now a priest. "It's a really funny thing that you spend 15 years marrying people, and then all of a sudden you're getting married," he says. "There's nothing worse than hiding something that's good. And if God is love and God calls us to love and the best life you can live is to live a life full of love, why hide it?"
As a married man, Father Cutié says he can now serve God in a different way. "My vocation to priesthood and the fact that I'm now married are not two different things. I think they complement each other," he says. "God is a big boy. When we face him, when we look at him face-to-face, the question he's going to ask is, 'Did you do it out of love?' ... And I believe I did everything I've done out of love. "