A South African cardinal who was seen by some as an outside bet to be elected pope, has rejected accusations that he is homophobic, saying it is impossible because he knows no gay people.
“I can’t be accused of homophobia,” Wilfrid Fox Napier told the Mail & Guardian newspaper in comments published Friday, “because I don’t know any homosexuals.”
Napier was among the 115 cardinals who elected Pope Francis as head of the Catholic church in March.
The Archbishop of Durban also lashed out as US conditions on aid, including distribution of condoms, and the promotion of gay rights as “a new kind of slavery.”
“With the same-sex marriages, we are carrying out someone else’s agenda,” he said.
“It’s a new kind of slavery, with America saying you won’t get aid unless you distribute condoms, legalise homosexuality…”
Same-sex marriages are legal in South Africa.
His comments prompted outrage, just weeks after he was forced to apologise for describing paedophilia as a sickness and not a crime.
“Paedophilia is actually an illness — it is not a criminal condition,” he told the BBC last month.
The 72-year-old has since apologised to victims of child abuse, saying paedophilia was a medical condition and sexual abuse of children was a crime.
In the Mail & Guardian interview he said paedophilia was a psychiatric disorder until acted upon.
“When a paedophile acts out those urges and fantasies, it becomes a crime. But if he does not, it’s a medical condition,” he said.
Napier’s comments on gays echoed those of ex-president Thabo Mbeki in 2003 that he did not know anyone who was HIV positive, as he denied the cause of AIDS in a country with the world’s highest number of infections.