Kasper's comments breed online controversy over racism charges

Cardinal Walter Kasper preaches, May 23, 2010. Credit: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Cardinal Walter Kasper preaches, May 23, 2010. Credit: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

.- German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s interview dismissing the perspective of African bishops at the Synod on the Family has added fuel to the fire of speculation over other questionable comments from the cardinal.

Edward Pentin, who writes for multiple news outlets, posted an article with Zenit after an interview with Cardinal Kasper, who said the African bishops’ perspectives on issues such as marriage and homosexuality are “taboo” and that they “should not tell us too much what we have to do.”

Zenit retracted the article after Cardinal Kasper denied the remarks, but Pentin countered with a statement and the full audio recording to substantiate the interview. Pentin said he introduced himself as a journalist, made his recording device visible during the interview and was never told by Cardinal Kasper that his comments were off the record.
 
Cardinal Kasper, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has been the leading voice advocating for divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriage has not been annulled to be re-admitted to Communion, even though these couples are in adulterous relationships.

His position on such matters has already been a source of controversy, but yesterday he set off a firestorm in the Catholic blogosphere with his remarks, some calling them dismissive and privileged at best, racist at worst.

Blogger Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress called the interview “Breathtaking condescension from a Western Bishop, whose German church is dwindling and headed for financial ruin, toward the African bishops whose pews and seminaries are indisputably overflowing and joyous.”

 “Cardinal Kasper, with all due respect, Eminence, ‘check your privilege.’”

A blog from First Things found Cardinal Kasper’s interview insensitive, especially considering the future of the Church in Africa: “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.”

First Things added that although some laws in certain African countries are not acceptable, it is possible to refuse to accept these laws without ignoring the continent’s perspective wholesale.

“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.”

Father Dwight Longenecker, who blogs with Patheos, parsed no words, calling Cardinal Kasper’s comments “racist” and insensitive when considering Africa’s religious history.

“Here are our brothers and sisters in the forefront of the fight against militant Islam, seeing their churches burned, their children kidnapped and their villages destroyed by Muslim thugs,” Father Longenecker wrote.

“They stand firm in the faith. Their seminaries are full. They are building new convents and monasteries. Their faith is strong, but hey. They don’t tolerate homosexuality so they are to be marginalized.”

Commonweal, on the other hand, believes Cardinal Kasper’s words may have been misinterpreted and that it is unfair to call him a racist.

“’The questions of Africa we cannot solve.’ He means the German church. (Or perhaps the Western European church.) That's why, he continues, ‘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].’ The ‘us’ Pentin supplies, but again Kasper is saying that one local church cannot solve the problems of another,” Commonweal's associate editor, Grant Gallicho, wrote.

“He doesn't mean we the synod, or we the rest of the church. He means we the Germans, we the Europeans, we the West. In other words, it's up to the churches of Africa to handle their own pastoral challenges. Just as ‘they should not tell us too much what we have to do.’ That's hardly dismissive, or xenophobic, or worse. It's just good theological sense.”

This is not the first time Kasper has tripped over his words. In September 2010, Cardinal Kasper was dismissed from a trip to the United Kingdom with Benedict XVI when he compared multicultural Britain to landing “in a third-world country,” The Guardian reports.
 

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