- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

The pastor of a Dallas Catholic church harshly criticized orthodox parishioners over the weekend for "hate and vengeance" in prompting the removal of his homosexual assistant pastor, who told a pornographic Internet clergy chat room that he lusted for Hispanic men and youth.
Msgr. Lawrence Pichard of St. Pius X Catholic Church in east Dallas chastised members of the parish for "hatred" in refusing to forgive the Rev. Clifford Garner, 36, after he professed sexual desires for Hispanic men, including a church youth pastor who was his roommate at a national Catholic youth retreat.
"He's no Ricky Martin but he is Hispanic and we got along wonderfully. It was almost like we were meant to be together," Father Garner told St. Sebastian's Angels, a 60-member homosexual clergy chat room which features nude erotic pictures of priest members.
"I do have a very special place in my heart for those Latin blooded ones."
In his weekly message "From Our Pastor," posted on the church's Web site Friday, Msgr. Pichard attacked behavior at a June 23 meeting attended by 300 church members to hear Father Garner's explanation.
"What is so disturbing to me is the hate and vengeance exhibited by some people," the monsignor said.
"Over 2 years ago, he went to a chat room and said some very inappropriate things. The site was hacked by a watchdog group that reported that activity to our bishops who instructed Father Cliff to never visit that Web site again and go through a process of intense counseling. For over a year he did just that. There was never again any problem."
But some parishioners, asking that they not be named for fear of retaliation, denied they were motivated by vengeance, saying they were simply angry about the church hierarchy repeating past mistakes.
"The proof is on the tape that it was not hate-filled, just a lot of angry folks because of what the parish has already been through and being sued for," said one woman, referring to a lawsuit over sex abuse of children by an employee of the church's after-school day care center.
Parishioners "were frustrated hurt, surprised and disappointed by such news about someone they trusted [and now had] no trust in him as a priest again," said a man who attended.
Father Garner refused at the meeting to discuss his homosexuality, the parishioners said.
"We were told it was none of our business," another woman said. "We think the problem is bigger than this one church. It is [active] homosexuality in the priesthood. Celibacy requires a state of mind that is celibate and is not divided against itself."
During comments by church members, Father Garner said, "I'm sorry if this has scandalized you all," but he did not ask forgiveness or admit that his conduct had been sinful.
"In fact, at the end of the meeting, Cliff had the final opportunity to speak and gave a very arrogant speech in which he told all the parents, 'And I'll be watching you,'" said a doctor who attended.
Msgr. Pichard did not respond to repeated telephone inquiries over the past three weeks or written questions e-mailed to him by The Washington Times.
Stephen G. Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful, the watchdog group to which the monsignor referred, said Father Garner remained a member of the homosexual chat group through a different e-mail address after superiors told him in April 2000 to stop participating.
Mr. Brady provided Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante copies of Father Garner's later messages in which he attacked church teachings on homosexuality and asked other homosexual priests to advise him how to persuade St. Pius X parishioners that the Bible did not condemn same-sex sodomy as sin.
Bishop Galante, in an interview, said the priest would have been removed from ministry two years ago had he known he preached against church teachings and remained active on the homosexual Web site.
The church considers homosexuality an "intrinsic disorder" because homosexuals reject the "natural law attraction of male to female," the bishop said. However, homosexual men can be priests along with heterosexuals if they are celibate, he said.
Mr. Brady said the rhetoric of Msgr. Pichard and Bishop Galante show "they're still not acknowledging the problems they have. In my mind, it's more doubletalk."
Many U.S. bishops have ignored a Vatican instruction signed in 1961 by Pope John XXIII that clearly bars homosexuals from the priesthood, he said.
"They don't want to touch this [homosexual] issue. They're scared to death," Mr. Brady said.


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