“Paedophilia as a psychological illness, a disorder, not a criminal condition”, said Wilfrid Fox Napier, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban. In an interview with the Stephen Nolan programme on BBC Radio 5 live, the South African cardinal said that people who were themselves abused as children and then abused others needed to be examined by doctors.
Cardinal Napier continued, “What do you do with disorders? You’ve got to try and 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. I know at least two priests, who became paedophiles after themselves being abused as children. 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.”
Is cardinal Napier suggesting the decriminalisation of paedophilia?
He may have stopped short of suggesting that the laws be changed, but it’s certainly implied that he would be in favour of such a change.
The Catholic Church has been battling to contain the child abuse crisis that has tarnished the reputation of the church. In their desperation, most of their attempts focussed on shifting blame away from the priests, rather that dealing with the problem.
Michael Walsh, writer of a biography of Pope John Paul II, said Cardinal Napier’s remarks were similar to the position once taken by the Catholic Church in the UK and the US.
“They did actually at one time believe it was a condition that could be dealt with. Many bishops were simply moving priests and trying to disguise the fact that they’d been committing these crimes,” Mr Walsh told the BBC.
Where does it stop?
If you can’t be held responsible for your actions because you do it on an impulse, driven by damaged caused to you by abuse, could anyone be held responsible for any of their actions?
The person you are, how you make decisions on what is right and wrong or acceptable is largely influenced by the environment you are from.
A person who grew up in a violent, abusive environment is more likely to become violent and abusive, more likely to kill. We have laws in place to discourage such behaviour.
Criminal law exists to hold you accountable for your actions towards others. When you abuse a child, your wilful actions make a direct impact on the humanity of another person and you should be held accountable for that.
Treatment for paedophiles is recommended, but shouldn’t treatment happen before they strike, in order to help prevent them from abusing children? If I have a tendency towards violent behaviour, I should seek help to control my anger in order to prevent me from striking out and killing someone. If I do kill someone, I should go to jail.
There should be no special exemption for paedophiles. If you’ve got the desire to molest a child, you should know that it is a crime punishable by the law, and if you want to avoid jail, get help.
Cor Rautenbach grew up in the Kalahari Desert – with no atheist influence, no internet and no literature – just a reasonable sense of logic applied while keenly observing the religious. He hasn’t been to a church sermon since the age of 14. No, he does not worship Satan.