A South African bishop has defended his writings at a pornographic homosexual Internet chat room in which he expressed “hope” the pope would die, while a Dallas priest apologized to his congregation Sunday for stating his interest in Hispanic men at the same site.
Auxiliary Bishop Reginald Cawcutt, Cape Town’s second-most-powerful Catholic priest, said he was “disciplined by the Vatican for my involvement” with the Web site, known as “St. Sebastian’s Angels,” in a Sunday story by the Cape Argus newspaper, arguing that his comments were “taken out of context.”
“It was the work of a hacker, a cut- and-paste job, and a lot of what was said was taken out of context, such as the remark about the pope which referred to his going to Poland his homeland and perhaps the place where he would like to die,” Bishop Cawcutt told the South African paper.
The Washington Times on June 13 quoted in its entirety a remark Bishop Cawcutt made about Pope John Paul II’s June 1999 visit to Poland. “Talking about the Vatican JP is in Poland at the mo mebbe he will die there? I shall listen to the news broadcasts in hope!” Bishop Cawcutt wrote.
In Dallas, the Rev. Cliff Garner apologized to members of St. Pius X Catholic Church for saying on the chat site that he was sexually attracted to Hispanic men.
Father Garner boasted in the chat room about a “cute” male youth minister from Dallas with whom he shared a room at a November 1999 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. I do have a very special place in my heart for those Latin blooded ones.”
According to the Dallas Morning News yesterday, Father Garner told church members at the end of an evening service Sunday and at other weekend Masses: “I apologize to anyone I may have scandalized, confused, or angered. There was no excuse for the inappropriate remarks.”
He was accompanied by the Most Rev. Joseph Galante, bishop of the Diocese of Dallas.
“But the apology was so vague that many members of the east Dallas congregation said they didn’t know what he was talking about,” the newspaper reported. “Church members said they were asked whether Father Garner should remain their priest. They said they were divided on the issue.”
Father Garner, the Rev. Larry Pichard, pastor at St. Pius X, and Bishop Galante have refused to respond to repeated inquiries from The Times about Father Garner’s homosexual advocacy on the site.
The chat room, which described itself as “a support group for gay religious brothers and clergy of the Roman Catholic Church,” featured nude male pictures and discussions among priests of their sexual desires and liaisons, according to Roman Catholic Faithful, a group headquartered in Petersburg, Ill. RCF monitored the site before it changed its name and required a password.
Bishop Cawcutt could not be reached by The Times, but he told the Cape Argus newspaper that the matter was dropped after he was reprimanded in Rome. He told chat-room members the issue was referred back to senior bishops in South Africa.
Stephen G. Brady, president of Roman Catholic Faithful, criticized the church’s failure to remove the priests, who he said were “mocking the teachings of the church.”
“What is so relevant here, and so shocking, is the fact that within the priesthood there are actually individuals who would defend this kind of activity and excuse it as a simple one-time failing,” Mr. Brady said.