What Did a Cardinal Tweet About Book On Reparative Therapy?

A top African cardinal recently tweeted about a book on reparative therapy and another book that claims the LGBT movement is totalitarian. What exactly is his message in doing so, and what could the pastoral implications be?

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.15.05 PM.pngIn early August, Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa tweeted about the book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach. He linked to quotes from the book in three tweets, and in one of the tweets commented before the quote’s beginning:

“Just started reading this challenging work on a subject of great importance. ‘And most of all I want to express m. . . ‘” [Ed. note:  The tweet ended abruptly.]

The book is authored by Josepn Nicolosi, a founding member and former president of  National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a reparative therapy advocacy group the . It was published in 2012, and is based on ideas that have long been discredited by mainstream professional communities.

In July, Napier tweeted about another book,  The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom by Gabriele Kuby, which is also highly critical of LGBT people. Its dust jacket description includes the following:

“From the [LGBT] movement’s trailblazers to the post-Obergefell landscape, she documents in meticulous detail how the tentacles of a budding totalitarian regime are slowly gripping the world in an insidious stranglehold. Here on full display are the re-education techniques of the new permanent revolution, which has migrated from politics and economics to sex.”

Several anti-gay figures have also endorsed Kuby’s book, including Austin Ruse of the Center for Family and Human Rights (classified as a hate group) and leaders with the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 explored how these extreme right wing figures and groups have helped import homophobia to Africa, even advocating for harsher criminalization laws.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.28.27 PM.pngFinally, Napier retweeted a derogatory image against transgender persons posted by another user. It is a chart of differing gender identities, around which male and female are circled and labeled as “genders.” The other near three dozen identities are circled and labeled as “mental disorders.”

Why is Napier giving a tacit endorsement to these books and this chart by tweeting about them with little to no commentary?

His promotion of them is even more problematic given the Catholic magisterium’s own ambiguity about reparative therapy and what Vatican officials have termed “gender ideology.” The Catechism says the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality is unknown, though admits there is a “non-negligible” number of people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” The U.S. bishops’ document Always Our Children addresses the issue of  reparative therapy more directly, but is ambiguous about support for it:

“You can help a homosexual person in two general ways. First, encourage him or her to cooperate with God’s grace to live a chaste life. Second, concentrate on the person, not on the homosexual orientation itself. This implies respecting a person’s freedom to choose or refuse therapy directed toward changing a homosexual orientation. Given the present state of medical and psychological knowledge, there is no guarantee that such therapy will succeed. Thus, there may be no obligation to undertake it, though some may find it helpful.”

Given these statements, Cardinal Napier could be promoting Nicolosi’s book and feel he is defended by church teaching. Doing so, though, is certainly not within the limits of contemporary discourse on these issues, which has overwhelmingly rejected reparative therapy as pseudoscience and where the diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains highly controversial.

What is more problematic for me is not Napier’s ideas engagement with alternative viewpoints or even an engagement of ambiguous doctrine. The problems arise when reading his tweets through a pastoral lens. The harm reparative therapies have caused pastorally and psychologically is well-documented, which has led to a dozen or so countries and at least eight U.S. states to ban it in some or all forms. Of particular concern is forcing children to engage in such therapy, given the long term harm it can cause them. All of these realities seem to suggest it would be pastorally inappropriate to speak positively about Nicolosi’s writings.

Additionally, Napier is a culture warrior. Though not a signatory, he supported five cardinals’ submission of dubia to Pope Francis about perceived doctrinal issues with Amoris Laetitia. His Twitter feed includes many statements and retweets that place him clearly in the right wing of the church, and he emerged as a strong reactionary voice at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Read with this knowledge as context, his tweets about reparative therapy, the LGBT movement as totalitarian, and gender diversity as mental disorders read all the more threateningly.

I cannot know what is in Cardinal Napier’s heart or on his mind when tweeting quotes from Nicolosi’s book or linking to Kuby’s book, and especially not when retweeting the gender diversity chart. Still I have one invitation I humbly propose for the cardinal.

Cardinal Napier once claimed he could not be homophobic because he did not personally know any lesbian or gay people. He may not know when he has met an LGBT person, though it is almost assured that he has encountered members of these gender and sexual minority communities.

As a pastor, Napier would be wise to stop reading junk science and spend his time going out to meet with and listen to the stories of LGBT people and their families. That would be the real “challenging work on a subject of great importance,” and it would be the Christ-like path, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2017

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4 thoughts on “What Did a Cardinal Tweet About Book On Reparative Therapy?

  1. Don Siegal August 17, 2017 / 6:44 am

    Cardinal Wilfrid Napier calls it quits

    Sunday Tribune

    KWAZULU-NATAL / 13 MARCH 2016, 1:09PM / CLINTON MOODLEY

    Archbishop Napier is now 76 years old. He has submitted his required resignation to Pope Francis. How long does this process take?

    https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/cardinal-wilfrid-napier-calls-it-quits-1997144

    Napier is of my generation. Until these older anti-intellectual prelates leave active administration of the Church, we are going to continue to have these kinds of uninformed comments from the hierarchy. Clearly, in the face of modern intellectual information, Napier errs in his comments about the pastoral care of LGBT persons.

  2. FrAnthony August 17, 2017 / 8:03 am

    On the one hand the Roman Church has condemned transgenderism because a person should stay as God created them. On the other hand the church is saying it is okay to change your sexual orientation. This duplicity is a reason why I am joining the American old Catholic Church.

    • Loretta August 17, 2017 / 10:50 am

      Excellent point

  3. Tom Bower August 17, 2017 / 9:11 am

    The last few days of deplorable reactions to the Charlottesville hate riot from the White House to this South African cardinal’s support of hate talk I am seeing more clearly than ever the terrible historic reign of evil the hierarchy has imposed on the LGBT and female members of the Church by denying them equality. As with the President’s “hate groups are evil, but” the bishops fail to realize there is no “but” when it comes to loving and respecting all of God’s children.

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