Sunday 17 March 2013

Durban Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier responds to our questions about his Paedophilia interview!

I still would like an oral interview, but the Cardinal did email me this, from a private email address shortly after I asked his Archdiocese for a response. I have not seen this statement anywhere else, it seems I am the first to receive it (Update: it was later received by much of media about a day later.). The Archdiocese has confirmed that it is him who emailed me, and that it is his view:

Parts are still problematic, but at least he has hopefully by now realised the gravity of what has happened, and that statements such as his are not acceptable in any context, according to the morals and values of society. And I truly hope that in his explanation and seeming apology, he is not perhaps suggesting that he had anything to do with  shifting sexual predators from parish to parish in the 1990s. I would also like to ask the Cardinal whether the case/cases he referred to on the BBC ended with a police investigation and the sexual predators in jail, or whether they indeed got no punishment, when he has said he personally thought they deserved none.

If you follow this link to our earlier article, the first on the interview published in this corner of the world, to my knowledge: this account is what I believe is a fair account of what happened, and a context and history to this, including some statements by another bishop, who believed that there was a serious betrayal in South Africa, of Christ and victims, which has yet to see the light of day.

Just before I give his view, I'd quickly like to quote the BBC on his interview, to show the grave statements, which so concerned those who objected to the statements of the cardinal: whether he was ambushed or not, and whatever context they were in. These are the sort of statements which do need serious clarification, which it seems the Cardinal has realised this dire need in such a scenario as his words on British Broadcasting Corporation Radio 5 have created:

Napier said to the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show on BBC 5, according to the BBC:

'"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."

He said he knew 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."'
BBC | ''Paedophilia not criminal condition' says Durban cardinal' by BBC at 16 March 2013 Last updated at 02:13 GMT

And now: Napier's response to me:

At the outset I confirm that I fully uphold the Churchs position that:
a.       Sexual Abuse of Children is a horrendous crime against Children, their Families, the Church and Society.
b.       It is to be dealt with according to the requirements of civil criminal law and Canon Law.
c.       Accordingly once the existence of an offence has been verified by thorough investigation by independent investigators engaged by the Professional Conduct Committee, the matter is reported to the civil authorities, either the police, a Child Welfare Officer or a Social Worker, so that civil criminal action may take its course.
d.       Once civil action has been concluded the local Church submits the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
e.       Action determined by CDF is carried out.
BBC Radio 5 Live Interview
On Friday night at about 21h45 I received a request from BBC Radio to speak on the election of Pope Francis. As I had done more than a dozen times I agreed.
The interview conducted by Stephen Nolan for Radio 5 Live began with a general discussion of the Conclave, the atmosphere in the Sistine Chapel, etc. Then Stephen asked what Pope Francis needed to do about reforming the Church with particular reference to Sex Abuse of children. I accepted the question as I had done with other interviews.
I spoke about my own experience. In the early 1990s expert medical opinion was that paedophilia was a condition that was treatable, even curable. Therefore offenders could return to ministry after treatment. With experience that medical opinion evolved to saying that while offenders could be treated, their condition was not curable; indeed even treatment was not always successful. Therefore return to ministry was not an option.
To illustrate the complexity of the issue, I raised the question of the offender who had himself been abused, and with one particular case in mind opined that he needed treatment rather than punishment. Thats when the wheels came off.
I now stand accused of saying that paedophilia is a mental condition or disorder and not a crime. At least twice I stated that I was not qualified to say what paedophilia is. I was afforded no time to explain that the priority of pastoral concern must always be for the victim. But that has been overlooked in the heat of the argument.
The point was and still is: 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.
Whether he needs medical help as much as, if not more than punishment, is a question that is still to be answered by medical experts? Does the damage suffered by the abused in any way affect his culpability before a court of law? Again only the experts can give us the answer. I am not qualified, but dont I have the duty to ask on behalf of the abused abuser that he be given treatment even while inprison?
Subsequent to the show I called Stephen on Saturday without success. Eventually at about 23h30 someone from Radio 5 Live phoned to say I could go on the Show to clear the air. That was done, but not too successfully as the interview once again became an interrogation.
I asked to speak to a superior to complain formally about the deception of being asked to speak about the election when the agenda was Child Abuse. The senior editor Paul passed me on to Philo who gave me a chance to listen to the clip recorded earlier and make further clarifications.
While I issue this statement to give the background to the interview and also to what the Church is actually doing about Sexual Abuse of Children, 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.

+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM
Archbishop of Durban


  1. Trust secular media to continually misconstrue what was said and relay it back to inform their own agenda.

  2. Thank you for this news. Cardinal Wildred Napier has been wrongfully accused and this is yet another 'smear campaign' to make the Church and it's clergy appear to be monsters!

    I have posted a thread on Catholic Answers Forum - World News quoting your article and have given them a link to it.

    My post may be found at:


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