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Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade -- the Real Scandal in Flight of RC Priest to TEC

Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade -- the Real Scandal in Flight of RC Priest to TEC

COMMENTARY

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
6/17/2009

The frenetic media attention surrounding telegenic former Roman Catholic priest Fr. Alberto Cutie's flight from his church to The Episcopal Church and thus breaking his vows, the church's rule of celibacy and then marrying his divorced girlfriend, missed the real story.

Cutie is not the first priest to leave the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of celibacy. He certainly won't be the last, but he is certainly one of the first to leave it so publicly while acknowledging an affair with a formerly married woman and then being accepted into another Christian denomination - The Episcopal Church - where he has been made more welcome than the Prodigal Son.

Over the years, thousands of priests have left the Catholic Church unable to handle celibacy, but they did so quietly without causing scandal, giving no offense to their superiors, and choosing to be laicized while still remaining faithful Roman Catholics. I have met quite a number and they are embarrassed and angry by Alberto Cutie's behavior. His celebrity status has only aggravated the situation.

Cutie's sudden reception into The Episcopal Church by the ultra-liberal Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida, The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, is the real scandal.

That Cutie was immediately laicized before climbing into the Episcopal pansexual bed prevented Frade from violating any canon, but as one orthodox Episcopal bishop told VOL, Frade's actions may not have violated any canon except that of morality and good taste.

Even if Frade had overstepped the line, it is unlikely he would have been reprimanded by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. After all, a church that openly advocates non-celibate homosexuals to the episcopacy can certainly tolerate a wannabe priest in a Soap Opera like steamy beach sex scene courtesy of Twitter and whatever other social network bringing it to you on the nightly news. Cutie was president and general director of Pax Catholic Communications, home of Radio Paz and Radio Peace. He has also written newspaper advice columns and a self-help book, "Real Life, Real Love." Apparently, he took his own advice.

Had Frade's actions been subject to scrutiny, he could have appealed to Resolution D039, passed by General Convention 2000 stating that sex outside of marriage is now acceptable to the church. But Frade's actions are more typical than you might imagine. Frade's background throws light on his present actions in dealing with Cutie who has already announced he will pursue the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Frade was consecrated Bishop of Honduras on January 25, 1984. For almost 17 years, he helped to grow the diocese, making it the fastest growing diocese in the Episcopal Church at the time. He was involved in social and justice issues as well as having a strong commitment to evangelism. Frade was elected Bishop of Southeast Florida on May 6, 2000.

Frade is a Latino. His journey from that impoverished part of the world to the Episcopal Church raised eyebrows, at the time, with many believing that Frade's flight had more to do with his desire for a better pension than for any desire to convert Latinos to the Lord in southeast Florida.

As a newly minted Episcopal bishop, Frade soon abandoned whatever vestige of evangelical orthodoxy he had left by quickly rolling over into the pansexual zeitgeist of TEC's House of Bishops. He soon become a player in the liberal Episcopal house of the Lord with such notable plays as his declaration that heterosexual marriage is discriminatory and urging fellow Floridians to oppose Amendment 2 to Florida's Constitution, which would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. When he marched with Anglican Primates and bishops through the streets of London during a Lambeth Conference promotion of the Anglican Communion's Millennium Development Goals, he wrapped himself in a rainbow flag declaring, "when we talk about justice and mercy, we need to remember that gay and lesbian persons are discriminated against by the church and the government."

He also voted to depose two godly orthodox bishops for failing to conform to the doctrine and discipline of The Episcopal Church.

It should be noted that the state of Florida has a number of Episcopal dioceses. Not all of them are liberal. Bishop John W. Howe of Central Florida is an Evangelical and, more significantly, the former Bishop of Southwest Florida John Lipscomb recently departed The Episcopal Church and fled to Rome, in effect doing a reverse Cutie. He was recently observed at the Anglican Use conference in Houston.

Frade is more in theological sync with The Rt. Rev. John Howard, Bishop of Florida, than with Howe. Howard's diocese has been decimated with dozens of orthodox Episcopal priests fleeing his ultra-liberal grip and The Episcopal Church for more orthodox Anglican jurisdictions.

Frade's rollover to The Episcopal Church's pansexual agenda did not raise eyebrows among enlightened Episcopalians, but it has caused a furor within The Roman Catholic Church.

John C. Favalora, archbishop of the Catholic Church's Miami archdiocese, said that Cutie's actions have "caused a grave scandal within the Catholic Church."

Indeed. It has enormous repercussions for ongoing Anglican/Catholic dialogue on unity. Frade's actions seriously jeopardize ARCIC talks and raise questions that the Vatican can no longer turn a blind eye to or ignore - namely that The Episcopal Church, as a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, has moved way beyond the biblical bounds of heterosexual sex within marriage to a place that not even Sufi the Rumi would be found.

Why should The Roman Catholic Church take seriously anything The Episcopal Church now says or does anymore? Repeatedly, Cardinals have appeared at Lambeth conferences and warned Anglican leaders that they are taking pathways leading away from orthodoxy on faith and morals.

By contrast, the Episcopal Bishop of Bethlehem, Paul V. Marshall has accepted more than a dozen former Roman Catholic priests into his ecclesiastical embrace without scandal. The newly elected bishop of Long Island, the soon to be Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, an embracer of all things pansexual, is another refugee from the Roman Catholic Church. Rome may not like it, but no scandal was involved in his deciding to leave the embrace of Rome for the gentler tentacles of TEC.

Frade's actions kicked the Roman Catholic archbishop in the teeth, outraging Catholic sensibilities far and wide.

"This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us," said Archbishop of Miami John Favalora. "The Archdiocese of Miami has never made a public display when for doctrinal reasons Episcopal priests have joined the Catholic Church and sought ordination. In fact, to do so would violate the principles of the Catholic Church governing ecumenical relations. I regret that Bishop Frade has not afforded me or the Catholic community the same courtesy and respect."

Frade's outrageous actions heighten the theology (or lack of same) and the direction of the Episcopal House of Bishops. How can Episcopal ARCIC officials look their Catholic counterparts in the face with such an indictment from the Miami Archbishop?

The actions of The Episcopal Church are jeopardizing its place in the wider Anglican Communion, fracturing whole provinces and destroying the much-vaunted bonds of affection and TEC seems bent on going to Hell taking everyone with it.

According to newspaper reports, Frade dressed the part for what was undoubtedly the media zenith of his church career. "Our ministry has centered on spiritual growth, love, forgiveness, and a sense of community," Frade pronounced. "Guided by a spirit of fellowship and understanding, the Episcopal Church remains a beacon of hope and faith for all."

Really. What sort of "fellowship and understanding" (code for TEC's inclusivity and diversity notions) sense does that make to Archbishop Favalora and to dozens of his priests who must practice celibacy as part of their vows?

Archbishop Favrola said Fr. Cutie separated himself from Roman Catholicism by professing "erroneous faith and morals, and refusing submission to the Holy Father."

By embracing Cutie, Frade has participated in, at the very least, the morals part of that equation and still expects to talk up Anglican Catholic unity as though everything was just fine. What fictional world is he and TEC living in?

According to the archbishop, Father Cutie's actions caused grave scandal within the Catholic Church, harmed the Archdiocese of Miami - especially its priests - and led to division within the ecumenical community and the community at large. And Frade does not so much as blink.

The archbishop then made this very telling statement, "The Archdiocese of Miami has never made a public display when for doctrinal reasons Episcopal priests have joined the Catholic Church and sought ordination. In fact, to do so would violate the principles of the Catholic Church governing ecumenical relations. I regret that Bishop Frade has not afforded me or the Catholic community the same courtesy and respect."

"I must also express my sincere disappointment with how Bishop Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida has handled this situation. Bishop Frade has never spoken to me about his position on this delicate matter or what actions he was contemplating. I have only heard from him through the local media. This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us."

So Frade becomes an ecclesiastical exhibitionist and nobody at national church headquarters seems the slightest bit perturbed about how this will impact Anglican -- Roman Catholic talks.

It is the same kind of arrogance I observed in Jamaica. Katharine Jefferts Schori and her cohorts gave not one damn about the impact of TEC's actions on the global Anglican Communion. Her attitude all along has been, "We are The Episcopal Church and we can do whatever we damn well like". Get over it. That same attitude will undoubtedly be reflected again at GC2009. The only thing that Frade seems to have done right, as a bishop, is to defrock an Episcopal priest, Fr. Adrian Parry, of South Miami, after explicit images of him appeared on a gay wrestling website.

The Episcopal Church is wrestling itself into a corner from which it appears increasingly it cannot extricate itself. Few now believe a Covenant will do the job to save the communion.

END

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