- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

A Catholic bishop in South Africa, who wished the pope dead on a pornographic homosexual clergy Internet chat room started by American priests, resigned under fire after news of the Web site hit newspapers in Cape Town.

Bishop Reginald Cawcutt tendered his resignation Wednesday to Pope John Paul II after The Washington Times reported his involvement in the chat room where homosexual priests posted nude pictures, talked about sexual liaisons with young men and criticized church teachings against homosexuality.

The Vatican in Rome yesterday announced the pope's acceptance of Bishop Cawcutt's resignation without comment, after Cape Argus, a Cape Town newspaper, picked up The Times' story. The former bishop is now serving as an unassigned priest.

"Because I do not wish to be the cause of any further division in the church, after 40 years of what I believed to have been service to the Lord, I have resigned as Cape Town's auxiliary bishop and I will continue serving the Good Lord with a lower profile," Father Cawcutt said in a prepared statement posted on the Archdiocese of Cape Town Web site Wednesday.

"I know that my ministry has not been without controversy," he said. "I know that I have made mistakes. I know that I have offended and angered some, and for that I humbly apologize and beg your forgiveness and understanding. I do so hope that the Lord you love is the Lord of the Prodigal Son parable."

The former bishop was unavailable for comment yesterday because he was traveling to celebrate Mass in other locations, said an assistant in his Cape Town office.

The 68-year-old cleric's resignation came after dismayed reaction by Catholic parishioners over local news reports about Father Cawcutt's Internet activities.

Father Cawcutt started the Catholic Church's AIDS ministry in South Africa and was chaplain to the navy and a school for the deaf in Cape Town. His advocacy of homosexual activism and linkages among Catholic clergy around the world was conducted primarily through the Internet Web site, which included at least 60 members, mostly Americans, according to Roman Catholic Faithful, a lay group based in Petersburg, Ill.

The American Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals involving sexual wrongdoing by priests toward minors. It reportedly has settled thousands of sex abuse cases with victims throughout the country, involving 400 or more priests since 1983, for an estimated $1 billion in secret payments. Details of those payments have been revealed mostly by civil lawsuits.

Last month, a 36-year-old Dallas priest, the Rev. Clifford Garner, was removed as assistant pastor of St. Pius X Catholic Church after The Times reported his two-year-plus involvement on the same homosexual clergy Web site called St. Sebastian's Angels.

Father Garner, in a 1999 message to fellow homosexual clergy, expressed his sexual desire for Hispanic men and youths, saying, "I do have a very special place in my heart for those Latin blooded ones."

Father Garner congratulated the South African bishop for "doing God's work and because of that you and the rest of us will be beaten and crucified but we will rise. Peace be with you."

After The Times' revelations, Dallas coadjutor Bishop Joseph A. Galante said that Father Garner never would be reassigned to ministry in the Catholic Church. The bishop said Father Garner was sent for "extended reflection and discernment" to an undisclosed location. All references to Father Garner, except for his biography as a past priest, have been removed from the St. Pius X Web site.

Father Cawcutt was considered a "spiritual adviser" to the homosexual clergy chat room. During the pope's June 1999 visit to his homeland of Poland, the South African cleric told chat room members he hoped the pope would die during the trip. He added his hope that the Vatican's chief of doctrinal faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, would be homosexually raped or killed.

"Talking about the Vatican JP is in Poland at the mo mebbe he will die there?" Father Cawcutt wrote. "I shall listen to the news broadcasts in hope."

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