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Update: Cardinal Is “Appalled,” Denies Africa Comments Caught on Tape

Update II: Africans Criticize Cardinal Kasper’s Remarks

In a stunning new interview, German Cardinal Walter Kasper has said that African Catholics “should not tell us too much what we have to do” and admitted that they are not being listened to at the Vatican’s current synod as it takes up matters including homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, and family life. 

Kasper has been the main advocate for admitting to communion Catholics who are divorced and remarried—and thus living in what the Church, following the words of Christ himself, considers adultery. This would constitute an act of grave vandalism to Catholic doctrine and a serious failure in the Church’s pastoral outreach. 

It would also require the silencing of the voices of Catholic leaders outside of Europe and North America, especially those from Africa, who have a very different way of seeing the tangled issues of divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality. In the interview Kasper tries to dismiss the opinions of African bishops (which need not be accepted in whole to be taken seriously) as the product of mere taboo: 

Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.

That’s right. Not only Africans, but also Christians from Muslim-majority countries—the ones being killed and displaced by the thousands and thus uniquely close to the cross that stands at the center of all Christian reflection—must go unheeded. More from the interview:

But are African participants listened to in this regard?

No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].

They’re not listened to?

In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.

What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod?

I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.

“But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.” This despite the fact that Africa—home to 135 million Catholic Christians in 2005, and a projected 230 million by 2025—is where the future of the Church lies. (Europe is on trend to have fewer Catholics than Africa within a decade.) 

One can reject utterly proposals like Uganda’s law on homosexuality—as I do—without dismissing the opinions of an entire continent as the product of mere taboo. Indeed, as Elizabeth Palchik Allen has argued in Foreign Policy, Uganda’s law was prompted in no small part by the same sort of imperious condescension exhibited by Kasper. When it comes to matters that matter, the past is a foreign country, as is Africa, and Kasper has no intention of listening to either.

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