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Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
25 February 2000


Bishop rejects accusations over his patronage of Internet
support group
ENI-00-0069

By Noel Bruyns
East London, South Africa, 25 February (ENI)--Cape Town's
auxiliary Catholic bishop, Reginald Cawcutt, has rejected
criticisms of his support for an Internet website linking
homosexual priests around the world.

Bishop Cawcutt told ENI, in a telephone interview from Cape
Town, that his participation was a ministry tool allowing him to
support and counsel the priests. He added that he had the support
of his archbishop, Lawrence Henry.

Many South African Catholics were shocked to read in the
mass-circulation national newspaper, the Sunday Times, on 20
February, that Bishop Cawcutt was linked to the US-based website
which, the newspaper falsely claimed, contained "pornographic
images for gay priests".

The Sunday Times quoted criticisms by an American right-wing
Catholic group, Roman Catholic Faithful, which, the bishop told
ENI, was viciously homophobic.

"For many years it has been well known that I am involved in
Aids work - both in Cape Town and at the national Bishops'
Conference level," Bishop Cawcutt told ENI. "This ministry has
got me involved with ministry also to gay people."

A priest in Australia had learnt of his ministry and invited the
bishop to join a private Internet "newsgroup" for about 100
homosexual priests around the world who needed "an understanding
bishop". This closed web group - which is not an Internet "chat
room" open to all computer-users - acts as a cyber-support group
enabling the priests to share their problems.

"I joined the group openly, using my name and saying that I was
a bishop. I also informed Archbishop Henry, who replied: 'If
you're trying to be compassionate and reach out, that's fine',"
Bishop Cawcutt told ENI.

"Sadly, I read about the agonising, rejection, pretending,
hiding, unworthiness, fear, frustration, loneliness and bashing
which many of the priests endured," he continued. "Many of the
members have derived much support in accepting their sexuality
from the group. It goes without saying that the difficulties of
celibacy have often been spoken about."

He said one member of the group had set up his own home page on
the web that included a picture of a sexual nature. The other
priests immediately objected to this, and the offending picture
was removed.

Unfortunately, "cruel and vicious" members of the right-wing
group had hacked into the private support group website - a
felony in the US. They published, on their own website, extracts
taken from the private website.

"Of course, they chose to reprint only the spicy bits," Bishop
Cawcutt said, "and of course the offending picture. Much of what
they have maliciously chosen is out of context, with quotes mixed
up.

"What a pity they did not also choose to quote the compassionate
support given by some of the members to each other," Bishop
Cawcutt added.

He accused the right-wing hackers of calumny.

"Their sin is worse than any they are accusing the members of,"
the bishop said.

Many of the priests had since been reported to their bishops and
forced to terminate their membership of the support group. They
now had to endure renewed gay-bashing from some bishops and cope
with their sexuality in isolation, Bishop Cawcutt said.