African Cardinal Napier Publicly Blasts Progressive Cardinal Walter Kasper


In an unusually public and confrontational manner, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier shot off a series of Twitter messages this week criticizing his fellow cardinal, the German Walter Kasper, in response to a Huffington Post article that called Kasper “the Pope’s theologian.”

An avid tweeter, Napier wrote that it is a “worry” to see this title applied to Cardinal Kasper because of his disrespect for the Church in Africa and its leaders, whom he thinks are overly influenced by taboos.

The two cardinals had already faced off in last October’s Vatican synod on marriage and the family over themes such as homosexuality, Communion for the divorced and remarried, and the role of the African bishops.

Cardinal Kasper got himself into hot water when he seemed to write off the African bishops’ concerns as somehow peripheral to the real synod discussions, or as unworthy of serious consideration. Kasper later tried to distance himself from his statements, going so far as to deny he ever said them, until veteran Vatican journalist Edward Pentin produced a voice recording of Kasper’s remarks and posted it online.

In that interview, Kasper used the unfortunate expression that the African bishops “should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

Kasper’s remarks sparked an outcry, which included accusations of racism and xenophobia, as well as demands that the German cardinal apologize for his dismissive remarks about African bishops.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that Kasper’s comments raised the specter of racism. In 2010, the cardinal was quoted in German magazine Focus that “when you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.” His comments were widely understood to refer to the multiracial composition one encounters at the London airport.

During last October’s synod, Cardinal Napier expressed strong opposition to sections of an interim text regarding same-sex unions, which he called a “sideshow.”

Napier said that the report “was not to the liking of many Synod Fathers.” According to the cardinal, the bishops took issue with the fact that the opinions of “one or two people” were presented “as if it was the considered opinion of the whole synod. And that makes people very angry about that,” he said.

He also said there were two issues in particular that got people “hot around the collar.” One was “presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing.” The second one regarded broken marriages “and the fact that people should be facilitated to get access to the sacraments,” Napier said, referring to the push to offer Holy Communion to divorced Catholics who have been civilly remarried.

Pope Francis responded to objections to the sloppy report by expanding the drafting committee, notably naming Cardinal Napier to the new team.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.


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