The Archbishop of Durban in South Africa, Wilfrid Fox Napier, who helped elect Pope Francis, has described p*dophilia as a “psychological illness” rather than a criminal condition.
Napier told BBC Radio 5 live that those who had been abused as children should not be held criminally responsible for their actions in the same way as somebody “who chooses to do something like that”. He added that in these situations it should be considered a psychological illness rather than a criminal condition.
Napier was one of the 115 cardinals who elected Pope Francis this week in the conclave at the Vatican. Pope Francis takes over as pope during a time when the church is dealing with historic international evidence of serious abuse by priests and allegations of a cover-up. The Catholic Church has long been criticized for not taking their role as religious leaders seriously and overlooking some of the worst crimes against humanity in all of human history. Wide-spread abuse has caste a massive stain on the church and it’s something that doesn’t seem to want to go away.
Napier went on to say, “What do you do with disorders? You have got to try and put them right. If I as a normal being choose to break the law knowing that I am breaking the law, then I think I need to be punished.” He continued, “From my experience p*dophilia is actually an illness, it is not a criminal condition, it is an illness.”
Napier was speaking of two priests who were abused as children and went on to abuse children later in life.
He told the BBC: “Don’t tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like that. I don’t think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished when he was himself damaged.”
Barbara Dorries, from the US-based Survivors Network of those abused by Priests was abused as a child by a priest, said, “If it is a disease that’s fine, but it’s also a crime and crimes are punished, criminals are held accountable for what they did and what they do.” She continued, “The bishops and the cardinals have gone to great lengths to cover these crimes to enable the predators to move on, to not be arrested, to keep the secrets within the church.”
This is not the first time Napier has spoken out about controversial topics. He has said that people should rather abstain from having s*x instead of using contraceptives to stop spreading HIV. While the Cardinal is quick to defend those who’ve abused children, he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in seeing them get the help they need outside the church. The Catholic Church has been criticized for handling their situations in-house and protecting child abusers from the real criminal justice system.