London, March 17: A South African cardinal, who was among the 115 cardinals in the Vatican conclave that elected Pope Francis last week, feels paedophilia is not “a criminal condition” but a psychological illness.
South Africa’s top Catholic says people abused as children are not criminally responsible if they abuse others in adulthood.
Wilfrid Fox Napier, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban, told BBC Radio 5 Live that people who were abused during childhood and became paedophiles were not criminally responsible for their actions in the same way as somebody “who chooses to do something like that”, The Independent reported.
The church is still dealing with historic international evidence of sexual abuse by priests and allegations of a cover-up.
This month, the BBC claimed to have seen evidence that bishops in the Catholic Church in Scotland knew about 20 allegations of child sex abuse by priests between 1985 and 1995.
While describing paedophilia a “psychological disorder”, Cardinal Napier said: “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.”
The cardinal mentioned two priests he knew who were abused as children and went on to become paedophiles.