Today two interviews from two prominent cardinals were released, both touching upon African bishops and their participation in the Synod on the Family.
First, Cardinal Walter Kasper. In an interview with Edward Pentin posted today by Zenit, the German cardinal said he believes “a growing majority” of the synod participants are in favor of his controversial proposals about Communion for the divorced and remarried. Cardinal Kasper also emphasized the differences between the challenges faced by the Church in the West and the Church elsewhere, stating that the problems of the African Church, in particular, are “impossible” for the synod to solve. Likewise, he said, the African bishops “should not tell us too much what we have to do.”
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.
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.
That different challenges face the Church in Africa has frequently been remarked upon by African prelates themselves; polygamy, in particular, has been mentioned recently by, among others, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa. But, as in the case of Cardinal Napier’s comments, polygamy often comes up as a situation in which largely “Western-centric” discussions of divorce and the reception of Communion may have unforeseen consequences for non-Western Catholics, rather than as an issue that cannot be effectively addressed by the Synod Fathers.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan also spoke about the African bishops participating in the synod, in an interview with Catholic News Service, which can be viewed below (Dolan also posted it today on his blog).
We in the Church in Europe, the Church in North America, we suffer sometimes from a lethargy, don’t we? Not Africa! … The bishops of Africa are prophetic in reminding us that the role of the Church is to transform the culture, not to be transformed by the culture. …
I’m afraid sometimes we in the West might say, “Oh, I guess we ought to dilute things, I guess we ought to capitulate, it’s obvious this teaching’s being rejected, oh my Lord, we’re not popular.” And the Africans say, “Well, you know what? We’re not supposed to be. What we’re supposed to do is propose the truth and invite people by the love and the joy of our lives to embrace the truth. And take it from us, brothers, it works.”
UPDATE (10/16): Cardinal Kasper is denying that he made the statements quoted in Pentin’s article for Zenit, and the piece has been removed from Zenit’s website without explanation. From Kath.net (translated from German for CWR by Michael J. Miller):
The retired Curial prelate Cardinal Walter Kasper, in speaking with kath.net on Thursday afternoon, denied alleged statements of his about African bishops. His exact words were: “I am shocked. I never said such a thing about Africans and would never say such a thing either. I declare: no one from Zenit contacted me in recent days and weeks and no one asked me for an interview. No one from Zenit got an interview from me.” Kasper also announced that he would take the Zenit news agency to task. In its summary of the Zenit interview, kath.net pointed out from the beginning that it was unclear whether the interview had been authorized in the first place by the Curial cardinal.
UPDATE #2: Edward Pentin has responded to the Kath.net article on his personal website, standing by his original report and posting an audio recording of the interview with Cardinal Kasper. He states:
His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke to me and two other journalists, one British, the other French, around 7.15pm on Tuesday as he left the Synod hall.
I transcribed the recording of our conversation, and my iPhone on which I recorded the exchange was visible. I introduced myself as a journalist with the [National Catholic] Register, and the others also introduced themselves as journalists. I therefore figured the interview was on the record and His Eminence appeared happy to talk with us. In the end, I posted the full interview in ZENIT rather than the Register. ZENIT removed the article on Thursday in response to Cardinal Kasper’s denial.
His Eminence made no comment about not wanting his remarks published. It depends on the context, but normally in such a situation, comments are considered on the record unless otherwise requested. …
If there was a misunderstanding, I apologise, but I stand by the interview that was published as a correct account of the exchange.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!