Cardinal Involved In Election Of Pope Suggests Pedophilia Not A Crime

 Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier; @TimesLive

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier; @TimesLive


In a shocking interview that gives a chilling glimpse into the mindset of the high-level leadership in the Catholic church, South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, the Archbishop of Durban, stirred controversy by saying that pedophilia is an illness, not a crime. Cardinal Napier was a part of the conclave that elected Pope Francis last week.

BBC Radio 5’s Stephen Nolan interviewed the cardinal, who discussed his role in the conclave, and the interview drifted to some topics that “upset” the cardinal.

I’ve included the audio recording of this unbelievable interview at the end of the article, but I’ll excerpt it below with screenshots of Napier’s Twitter account. The transcript is courtesy of Mark Cogitates, a South African Catholic blogger. Incidentally, Cogitates seems to support the lunacy expressed by Cardinal Napier, but, at any rate, we do appreciate him capturing the damning words in a full transcript.

Nolan asked the cardinal if radical reform is needed within the Catholic Church. Cardinal Napier seemed genuinely confused by the question (???).

“Why would you say that?”

A patient Nolan pointed to the obvious (to everyone but someone IN the church, I guess): mismanagement of sexual abuse cases. The cardinal expressed outrage and denial.

“Just hold on now. You know that’s when I get rather, how would I say, upset when I hear people making generalisations [sic] like that. How do you, when the cases have been now referred to the Doctrine of the Faith and the Doctrine of the Faith is working flat out in handling these cases, I don’t know how anyone can say in this day and age, that the cases are actually still being mishandled?”

My goodness, how could anyone say that?

Note that after the interview, Napier took to Twitter to express his frustration…at being accused of insensitivity!

The good cardinal seems to think that mishandling of sexual abuse cases was a thing of the past, and well…what’s done is done. Furthermore, the abusers were often sexually abused as children themselves, he notes. He fails to recognize that we don’t care if he and the other church leadership members are upset. He doesn’t understand that the entire world is upset with THEM.  He recognized that these atrocities “may have happened in the past when no one had experience on this” but that Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul refereed all such cases to the Doctrine of Faith. He adamantly believes that there are no grounds for saying that church sexual abuse cases were managed improperly.

Really? They “may have happened in the past when no one had experiences on this”?

When has no one had “experience on this”? Oh, right. Back when they had no experience “on” being held accountable. When children lived in fear of their souls burning in hell if they ratted out fondling and sodomizing priests.

Nolan suggested that the Church is only handling the accusations and making amends now because of pressure from society and the media. Well…? Of course they are. But not so, according to Cardinal Napier. He said:

“That may be your opinion but I don’t think that it tallies with the facts.”


The cardinal insisted that, when such cases crossed his desk, he handled them in the proper manner.

“We handled cases where people had come forward and said I was abused by father so and so. And the protocol said these are the steps that have to be taken in order to establish whether this allegation is true. Once the allegation is true other steps then have to be taken. Now what other way can you deal with something of this kind?”

When Nolan pointed out that many of the accused remained in the church and never faced consequences, Napier said that it depended in which country the accused lived and the laws in that country. In South Africa, for example, victims are required to report the crimes themselves. He said that many priests were treated and returned to their service.

“Some of the priests went, according to the wisdom of the time, the best information that we had from psychologists, they went for treatment, came back and have been under – what we call it – personal surveillance and have functioned quite normally ever since. Others left the priesthood, they were laicised, but it depended on each case being handled differently because of the peoples (sic) conditions were different.

“They were centres like St Luke’s in America where deep psychological therapy and all that kind of stuff, which at the time the people said this was actually something that could help – it could help to control the condition – it might not cure the condition, but we know since that those very same centres have said, look, the success rate of treatment is such that you have to remove these people completely from the priesthood and not put them back into positions of authority.”

Napier did say that after the priests were cured of their predatory instincts, they were not allowed to have contact with children. Nolan seemed puzzled that the predators would be treated with medical care and not sentenced to jail time (as anyone else would be). Napier was confused about this. Why would they go to jail? They just needed a little rehabilitation, right?

“I mean, I’m sure there are people who get put into – psychopaths who committed crimes that are put under treatment. That’s my experience of it, that people don’t just get put into jail punitively but there are efforts to rehabilitate them and provide them with the kind of medical, mental, psychological care that will help to rehabilitate them.” He continued “Look, if you are acting out of a defect in your own character, are you culpable, are you totally culpable that you must be punished or are you simply ill that you need to be treated and you need to be cured?”

Nolan finally just went for it and asked Cardinal Napier if he felt that pedophilia should be punished. The cardinal’s response:

“Well look, what is paedophilia? (sic) It’s a condition. It’s a psychological condition. It’s a disorder. What do you do with disorders? You have got to try and put them right. Sin is a disorder. In other words we should say, all sinners, don’t even try to come to Confession because you are going to fall back into sin again and that is not the reality of what the Church is about.”

A condition…

I daresay, it is a condition. One that requires strict isolation from society so that not another innocent child be harmed by these monsters. It is a condition, indeed…one that is treated with JAIL TIME. Maybe for life.

Napier actually equated pedophilia with bipolar disorder, and even suggested later in the interview that the predator himself is damaged. (true that!)

“If I as a normal human, 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. But if you tell me that someone who has got a psychological condition, lets take for instance manic-depressive.” (sic)

He continued his impassioned defense of the offending priests. Fascinating how these people seldom focus on the child victims, isn’t it?

“Paedophilia (sic) is something that you seem to have a very simple answer to. From my experience paedophilia (sic) is actually an illness, it’s not a criminal condition, it’s an illness. And that is what I get from psychologists who have helped us to deal with cases. In fact I will tell you one thing that I know of, at least two of the priests who became paedophiles or who committed acts against children – whether they’re paedophiles I am not in a position to judge that because I think that needs the expert opinion – who had been abusers had themselves been abused as children. Now don’t tell me that those people are criminally responsible like someone who chooses to do something like that; when they themselves have been abused as children they then as adults they then abuse children. I don’t think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished.

“I cannot pass a judgement on that. That is a medical… that’s something that the medical people have to pass a judgement on. Whether this person can be held criminally responsible is something that they are in a qualified position to … qualified to make a judgement, not me.”

Napier did apologize alter, via Twitter, but I’m afraid that like the church’s apologies, Cardinal Napier’s apology rings insincere. The fact that he holds these unbelievable views is telling and should be noted.


Hmmm…note he’s still defending the “abused abuser.” Whatever, Cardinal.

I offered him a bit of advice:

Pedophilia is listed in the DSM IV as a mental condition. Sources suggest that it will not be included in the DSM V. I agree that it should not be listed as a mental illness. Child predators enjoy sexual contact with children. Whether they have a mental diagnosis or not is a separate issue. They’re criminals and should be handled as such.

You can hear the entire interview at Huffington Post.


I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blogFind me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.