(Reuters) – A South African cardinal who helped elect Pope Francis this week has told the BBC pedophilia is an illness and not a crime.
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban, told BBC Radio 5 on Saturday that pedophilia was a “disorder” that needed to be treated.
“From my experience, pedophilia is actually an illness. It’s not a criminal condition, it’s an illness,” he said.
Napier said he knew of at least two priests who became pedophiles after they were 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.”
The Catholic Church has had its image deeply tarnished by a widespread child sex abuse scandal.
Napier was one of the 115 cardinals in the Vatican conclave that elected Pope Francis on Wednesday, the BBC reported.
The first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, Francis has signaled 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.