Cardinal explains paedophilia comments

2013-03-18 09:10
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier

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Cape Town - The South African cardinal who made headlines after making controversial statements about paedophilia has said his remarks were taken out of context.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier defended himself following the furore that erupted after he spoke to the BBC, according to reports.

Napier was slammed by women and children’s rights groups for saying that paedophilia “is actually an illness ... it is not a criminal condition", and saying that people who were abused as children and then abused others needed to be examined by doctors.

Napier was quoted as saying: "What do you do with disorders? You've got to try to put them right. 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 that.  I don't think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged."


Napier responded to the criticism on Twitter, saying on Monday morning: "I apologise to victims of child abuse offended by misstatement of what was & still is my concern about all abused including abused abuser."

He said he was asked by the interviewer whether a child abuse victim can become an abuser and be held criminally responsible, to which he responded that he is not qualified to judge.

He added: "It's the supreme irony. Because I raised the issue of the abused abuser, I stand accused of insensitivity to the sufferings of the abused."

He explained that his concern relates to "how can society deal justly, fairly and equitably with the abused, who has suffered incalculable damage, then goes on to abuse?

"Do the church & society not have to consider the damage he suffered when deciding what to do? Or does the abused abuser lose all his rights?"

Napier tweeted that he believes such an abuser should receive treatment, and it's up to the experts to decide whether that person should be in prison or out of it.

"Paedophilia must be treated. What must be punished is the crime of sexual abuse of children."

'Right and wrong'

Childline's Joan van Niekerk told The Times that Napier was "both right and wrong".

She said: "Paedophilia is one of the most misunderstood human conditions. Cardinal Napier is both right and wrong, which really underlines the complexity of the situation. It is a myth that everyone who abuses a child sexually is a paedophile. Paedophilia, as incurable as it is, cannot be an excuse for perpetrators not to take responsibility."

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

SACBC spokesperson Archbishop Stephen Brislin told The Witness 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.

“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.

African Christian Democratic Party president Kenneth Meshoe told The Times: "If he had made these comments at home, the outcry would have been even greater, but he made them while in Europe. I was very disappointed to hear about his comments because he has always been accurate on morality. As far as I'm concerned [paedophilia] is criminal and should be treated as such,"

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  wilfrid napier  |  durban  |  child abuse

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