Well blow me down. The Catholic journalist Edward Pentin proves that Cardinal Walter Kasper is lying when he denies having said what he said about the African bishops, and when he denies having given an interview. Pentin has the recording and has put it on his site. I listened to it. The transcript he published differs slightly from what the cardinal says, but not meaningfully (it appears that Pentin simply clarified the cardinal’s English). The Cardinal did say that you can’t discuss homosexuality with the Africans (and Asians and Muslims), and he did say that the Synod isn’t listening to their views. The money quotes start at around the three-minute mark on the recording.
The interview was conducted in public (you can hear the sounds of traffic), with at least two other journalists participating. The reporters identified themselves as reporters. There is no sense that the cardinal was ambushed. He spoke to the reporters for seven minutes. What clearly happened is that Cardinal Kasper made a Kinsleyesque gaffe: that is, he erred by telling an impolitic truth, at least as he sees the truth.
Why on earth did Kasper deny saying what he said, or giving the interview? I understand why this is embarrassing to him, but good grief, he looks like a fool now, and a manipulative fool. A (non-trad) Catholic friend of mine e-mails to say that so far, it looks like all the trad conspiracy theories about the Synod are coming true.
You have to understand that at least some Catholic bishops have no trouble dissembling to reporters and to the public when it’s to their perceived advantage. That’s just how it is, and the sooner you realize this, the better off you are. This is one big reason the institution lacks credibility. Some bishops play fast and loose with the truth when it suits their agendas. And sometimes, it blows up in their faces.
But Cardinal Kasper doesn’t look as bad as the Catholic news service Zenit, which sandbagged its reporter by taking down the news story, presumably at Cardinal Kasper’s request. Zenit is owned and run by the disgraced ultraconservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ. Back in the spring of 2002, when the LCs owned the National Catholic Register (they no longer do), I participated in a conference of Catholic journalists. We talked about the scandal. The then-publisher of the Register, a Legionary priest named Fr. Owen Kearns, smugly praised his own paper for not getting down in the gutter with the secular press and writing about this filthy scandal. It was a shocking display of the lack of journalistic integrity under LC leadership. The publisher-priest plainly saw his job as carrying water for the hierarchy, not reporting the truth.
Some things with the LCs never change, I suppose. Shame on them for what they did to Edward Pentin.
UPDATE: Take it away, Matthew Schmitz:
It is hard to say why Kasper chose to tell a very obvious lie. It is even harder to say why some were so ready to defend his original comments. It requires an exceedingly partisan mind to spin as insightful comments so offensive that even their speaker won’t stand behind them. Gallicho’s choice to take to the pages of Commonweal to lavish praise on the remarks suggests something that anyone who watches Church politics begins to suspect: Catholicism is now second only to Sufism in the central role accorded to spin.