SOUTH AFRICA — Less than a week after electing its new leader, the Catholic church is making headlines again — and they’re likely not the sort of headlines that will make their new Pope proud.
When pressed by the BBC this week, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier said that pedophilia was a “disorder” that needs to be treated, not a crime that necessitates punishment.
“From my experience, pedophilia is actually an illness,” Napier told the news out let. “It’s not a criminal condition, it’s an illness.
“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 was one of several Catholic administrators accused of covering up child abuse in his archdiocese. In 2002, he sparked controversy by refusing to expel South African priests accused of child abuse.
During his most recent comments to the BBC, Napier claimed that he knew two priests who later became pedophiles who had been abused as children.
The Catholic church has been rocked by allegations and admissions of child abuse over the past decade, something newly-elected Pope Francis hopes the church can distance itself from during his tenure.