Napier’s comments: bishops condemn sexual abuse

2013-03-18 00:00

THE Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference yesterday condemned all abuse of children unreservedly, saying it was aware of the effect of abuse on victims and their families.

The bishops were commenting after Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, on BBC Radio 5, reportedly described paedophilia as a psychological “illness, not a criminal condition”.

The Sunday Times quoted Napier as telling the BBC: “If I, as a normal being, choose to break the law knowing that I’m breaking the law, then I think I need to be punished.

“Now don’t tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like [crime].

“I don’t think you can easily take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged.

“What do you do with disorders? You’ve got to try and put them right,” he was quoted as saying.

SACBC spokesperson Archbishop Stephen Brislin said they could not react to Cardinal Napier’s interview as they had not heard it, nor spoken to him.

“However, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference is well aware of the devastation caused by sexual and other abuse of minors, both for the victims and their families, and condemns all abuse unreservedly,” Brislin said yesterday.

“The conference has, for a number of years, had a protocol in place in which we outline how any allegation of abuse is to be handled,” he said.

“For centuries there has been a veil of silence in the world surrounding child abuse and it is only in recent years that the matter is receiving the attention it deserves. Unfortunately there have also been failures on the part of the church.”

“Paedophilia is de facto a criminal offence and we will comply with the legal requirements when such cases come to our attention. Perpetrators must take responsibility for their actions,” said Brislin.

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests has mired the church in scandal in various countries, notably the U.S. and Ireland. Years of lawsuits and damages claims have bankrupted several dioceses.

The church hierarchy, all the way up to former Pope Benedict, have been accused of covering up the scandal and failing to take action against priests implicated in the crimes, often moving them from one parish or school to another, without informing parishioners.

Attempts to get hold of Cardinal Napier to clarify his comments were not successful last night.

He is currently in the Vatican, having taken part in the papal conclave to elect Pope Francis as pontiff last week.

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