Cardinal Wilfred Napier

Cardinal Wilfred Napier

The Archbishop of Durban is among conservative Catholic leaders who are backing out of a ground-breaking Vatican statement on gays and lesbians.

On Monday, the Church’s Synod on the Family released an interim report stating that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community” and calling for flexibility when dealing with divorce, homosexuality, and civil unions.

The statements were seen as a major departure from traditional Catholic dogma and made headlines around the world. They immediately received a backlash from conservative Catholics.

On Tuesday, South Africa’s homophobic Cardinal Wilfred Napier, who is taking part in the two week Synod that ends on Sunday, stepped into the fray, claiming that the document should not have been released.

“Just like you, I was surprised that it was published, you people got the document before we got it, so we couldn’t have possibly agreed on it,” he said at a press briefing in Rome.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why there has been such an upset among the synod fathers, is that we are now working from a position that is virtually… irredeemable,” he said.

“That would be my worry is that the message that has gone out – and it’s not a true message – that this synod has taken up these positions and whatever we say here after is going to be as if we’re doing some damage control, which is certainly not what is in my mind,” Napier added.

The Vatican also responded that the report was a “working document” and was not final. It said that it does not wish to give “the impression of a positive evaluation” of same-sex relationships, civil unions or of unmarried couples living together.

America’s Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior Vatican official, also slammed the report in an interview, stating that “it, in fact, advances positions which many synod fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept.”

In 2013, Napier accused America of enslaving Africa by trying to force it to accept homosexuality, said same-sex marriages go against “reason and revelation,” and stated that sexually active gay people do not belong in the Catholic Church.

He claimed that he couldn’t be accused of homophobia “because I don’t know any homosexuals.”

Napier was also forced to apologise when he told the BBC that paedophiles should not be prosecuted because they suffer from a medical condition.

While Pope Francis has hinted at a willingness to be more accepting of gay people, the Catholic Church remains vehemently opposed to same-sex relationships and marriage.

According to official Catholic dogma, while gay people are accepted, their sexuality is not. This is described as “acts of grave depravity” and as “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law”.

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