The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Kieran Conry has resigned.
The bishop said in a statement to be read in all churches in the diocese this weekend: “I am sorry to confess that, going back some years, I have been unfaithful to my promises as a Catholic priest.
“I would like to reassure you that my actions were not illegal and did not involve minors.
“As a result, however, I have decided to offer my resignation as bishop with immediate effect and will now take some time to consider my future.
“I want to apologise first of all to the individuals hurt by my actions and then to all of those inside and outside the diocese who will be shocked, hurt and saddened to hear this.
“I am sorry for the shame that I have brought on the diocese and the Church and I ask for your prayers and forgiveness.”
Bishop Kieran, 63, took over the diocese 13 years ago, having been ordained in 1975.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: “This is a sad and painful moment.
“It makes clear that we are always a church of sinners called to repentance and conversion and in need of God’s mercy.
“All involved in this situation are much in my prayers today.”
The Mail on Sunday published a report today (Sunday 28 September) suggesting that the bishop had relationships with two women – one of them a two-year affair with a 43-year-old mother of two.
The newspaper said that the woman’s husband had hired a private detective to track her movements. They included a shopping trip to Brighton.
The man filed for divorce earlier this month, according to the report.
It quoted Clare Kirby, the solicitor for the estranged husband, as saying: “My client is considering pursuing a possible High Court action against the Catholic Church because they’ve known for years that the bishop has been having affairs.
“And if they’d taken action he almost certainly would not have lost his marriage and his children would not be having to be brought up in a broken family.”