Poll finds Father Cutié still popular, most Catholics oppose celibacy rule

Despite declaring he is not ashamed of being with the woman he loves, the Rev. Alberto Cutié remains highly popular among Miami-Dade Catholics, who overwhelmingly oppose the church's long-standing policy of requiring a celibate clergy, a poll conducted for The Miami Herald over the weekend has found.

Among the poll's findings:

A substantial majority – 74 percent – of those surveyed, including Hispanics and non-Hispanics, oppose the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition of priests marrying or having any type of sexual relations. Only 22 percent said they supported the prohibition, while 4 percent said they were unsure or gave no answer.

That majority was even larger – 81 percent – when those polled were asked whether they thought priests and nuns should be able to marry because the "celibacy requirement for Catholic clergy is antiquated and no longer viable."

"In rejecting one of the cardinal tenets of church dogma, Roman Catholics in Miami-Dade now believe that church policies on celibacy from the 12th Century no longer make sense for the 21st Century," said Fernand R. Amandi, executive vice president of Bendixen & Associates, which conducted the poll for The Herald.

The poll's results are based on responses from 400 Miami-Dade Catholics interviewed Friday and Saturday. The sample is representative of the county's Catholic population by ethnicity, age, gender and geographic distribution. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The poll also shows that the public's perception of Cutié, who is no longer leading his Miami Beach parish, has not been severely damaged by the scandal that engulfed his religious life after a magazine published photos of him with a woman on the beach, including one with Cutié's hand inside the woman's bathing suit. Another photo shows the couple kissing at an unidentified terrace bar.

Those polled were asked:

"Taking into consideration everything that you know about Father Alberto Cutié, do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Father Alberto?"

Of those questioned, 78 percent said they had a favorable impression, and 10 percent said it was unfavorable, with 12 percent who were uncertain or had no opinion.

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