The latest nomination for the 2013 Craziest-Thing-Said-By-A-Catholic-Priest Award comes all the way from South Africa.
Step forward Wilfrid Fox (Cardinal) Napier, Archbishop of Durban.
Napier was giving an interview as part of the Stephen Nolan program on BBC Radio 5 live when he referred to pedophilia as “a psychological condition, a disorder.”
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. From my experience paedophilia is actually an illness. It is not a criminal condition, it is an illness.
At worst, his comments are an abberation, even for the Catholic Church. At best, they are severely lacking any tact. The best I can do in trying to give him the benefit of the doubt is that perhaps he is drawing parallels to the way psychopaths and the criminally insane are said to be treated at secure hospitals. At least I hope he means something along those lines because otherwise he really might just be advocating it as a defense in such cases.
Napier had been in Rome as one of the 115 Cardinals who last week elected Pope Francis. His comments have been immediately drawn widespread condemnation.
Barbara Dorries, from the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who was herself abused as a child by a priest, told the BBC:
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. 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.
How one of the leaders of the Catholic Church can’t understand that is unbelievable. Though, sadly, not very surprising.