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Friday 19 September 2014

Cardinal apologises for saying paedophilia not a crime

Published 18/03/2013 | 11:17

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FILE -- In this file picture taken on April 12, 2005, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier leaves the Vatican after the daily meeting of the College of Cardinals. A pastor in Ontario wondered about behind-the-scenes politicking ahead of the conclave to elect the next pope. He could have read news reports on the church leaders' pre-conclave meetings, or listened to briefings by the Vatican spokesman. Instead, he asked a cardinal. Less than an hour later, the response arrived.``What I see is a real desire to know, and so evaluate, the papabile against criteria of qualities demanded by situations'' in the church now, wrote Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, using the term ``papabile'' for cardinals seen as papal contenders. The exchange occurred on Twitter, one of many online interactions that have made this papal succession unlike any other for Roman Catholics and observers far from Vatican City. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier

A SOUTH African cardinal today apologised for offending victims of child abuse when he described paedophilia as an illness and not a crime in a media interview.

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Victims' rights groups and others said the comments by Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban, comments were insensitive, especially given perceptions the Catholic Church has not done enough to root out abuse.

 

"I apologise sincerely and unreservedly to all who were offended by the botched interview, and especially to those who have been abused and need every help and support that the Church can give," Napier said in a statement.

 

Napier, one of the 115 cardinals who took part in the Vatican conclave that elected Pope Francis, had told BBC Radio 5 that paedophilia was a "disorder" that needed to be treated.

 

"From my experience, paedophilia is actually an illness. It's not a criminal condition, it's an illness," he had said.

 

He also told the BBC he knew of at least two priests who became paedophiles after they were abused as children and therefore required treatment, not punishment.

 

"That's when the wheels came off. I now stand accused of saying that paedophilia is a mental condition or disorder and not a crime," Napier said in his statement.

 

"Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime among other things because of the damage it does to the child. In that concern I include the abused who has become an abuser."

 

One prominent South African presenter, Justice Malala, named Napier "loser of the week" on his television show and said the Cardinal's remarks were an embarrassment to Catholics.

 

Francis, the first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, has signalled a sharp change of style from his predecessor, Benedict, for the 1.2-billion-member Church, which is beset by scandals, intrigue and strife.

 

He said on Saturday the church should be poor and remember that its mission is to serve the poor.

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