A Priest in Love: Photos Rock Miami Beach Church

"Padre Oprah" says he doesn't want to give up either the woman or the church.

ByABC News
May 10, 2009, 5:56 PM

MIAMI, May 10, 2009— -- Father Alberto Cutie, known as "Padre Oprah," the nationally known Spanish language television host, advice columnist and bestselling author of the book "Real Life, Real Love," is creating quite a stir as he appears to be getting a dose of real love himself.

A Mexican magazine ran pictures of Father Cutie cuddling with a woman on a Florida beach and kissing her at a bar.

In an interview with the Spanish language network Univision, Father Cutie said that despite the scandal the photos have created, he doesn't want to give up either his collar or the woman he loves.

He told Univision, he loves the woman and has liked her since he met her.

After the photos appeared, the Archdiocese of Miami immediately removed him from his duties as a priest at St. Frances de Sales church in Miami Beach.

Today his parish held its first Sunday mass without him. One parishioner said that the real reason he came to the services was to support a brother in faith, a community leader and a person who has asked the community for its help and prayers.

Alberto Gomez, another parishioner, said he was not there to support Cutie.

"What he did was wrong, the way he did it, but I agree that priests should marry and have kids," Gomez said.

The scandal is reigniting the long-running debate over priest celibacy. Critics, including some priests, argue that celibacy is at the heart of the church's problems, including the shortage of priests and the sex abuse scandals.

The Vatican has never wavered on the issue and most active priests agree with its stance.

"I think there is something very healthy and holy about something that makes you wholly available for people and for ministry and for what you really believe, where if you were married with kids, you could not be as available," ABC News religion correspondent Father Edward Beck said.

Cutie says he's not ruling out marrying and having children with the woman in the pictures. She has been identified as Ruhama Buni Canellis, a 35 year-old divorced mother.