Saturday, March 16, 2013

Durban Cardinal Wilfrid Napier says Paedophiles 'not' criminals, and don't deserve punishment

Update (but don't miss this article which also includes it at the bottom): The Cardinal has given us a so far seemingly exclusive response to a request for comment on his statements to BBC Radio 5. He has clarified/retracted his seeming statement that Paedophiles are not criminals, here: Durban Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier responds to our questions about his Paedophilia interview! 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. Below 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. And comments by the current pope, that the only approach for such predatory behaviour must be zero tolerance.

I once interviewed Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, about a priest in his diocese seemingly breaking the rules of the Catholic Church, the cardinal asked whether I was a foreigner who struggled with English, and proceeded as though a proud parent, praising the dissident, and disobedient priest as one of the best. It is in perhaps this type of spirit, that Cardinal Napier has said some very strange things to BBC Radio 5's Stephen Nolan show.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, of Durban, says that paedophiles in his view were abused as children, and because they were abused, in his view, it is a psychological condition, and they are not criminally responsible, and therefore do not deserve jail, or any punishment at all for that matter.

This is in stark contrast to now Pope Francis, who as a bishop/Cardinal Bergoglio, before he changed his name to become Pope Francis, had then powerfully stated:

'"If a priest is a paedophile, he is so before he becomes a priest. But when this happens you must never look away. You cannot be in a position of power and use it to destroy the life of another person."

Bergoglio says he has never had to deal with such a case, but when a bishop asked what he should do, he told him the priest should be sacked and tried, that putting the church's reputation first was a mistake.

"I think that is the solution that was once proposed in the United States; of switching them to other parishes," he says. "That is stupid, because the priest continues to carry the problem in his backpack." The only answer to the problem, he adds, is zero tolerance.'
The Guardian | 'Pope Francis's book reveals a radical progressive in the making' by Giles Tremlett at 15 March 2013 16.33 GMT.

But to quote the BBC, to assure you I am not just making this extraordinary interview up, of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier's interview with the BBC, the BBC quotes Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, of Durban quite directly:

'"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

The Cardinal's statement however, completely misinterprets criminal responsibility in South African law. If the fact a person incurred violence as a child excuses their behaviour, most rapists, murderers, and other violent criminals would be considered innocent. The ISS recently studied the root cause of South Africa's rape epidemic, seeing it as the uncured exposure of children to violence, without psychological help for the mental conditions, such as in the kindness of the form of post-traumatic stress counselling, which the ISS says: could have stopped violence breeding violence. Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom, recently reported that those who have served in the army, are more likely to commit violent crimes than ordinary criminal offences. Violence does breed violence. But that does not absolve responsibility for raping a small child and ruining the life of that child and all who love that child. That certainly does not justify covering up paedophilia to prevent the law from protecting that child. In South African law: if you are criminally responsible and mentally sane: you go to jail, and sanity relates there to the ability to see right from wrong and obey right. Paedophiles, tend to have that ability and to CHOOSE to do wrong. But let us for a moment look at his argument, because South African law knows how to deal with the mentally ill who are harmful to others and break laws: the approach would be to make the paedophile then a 'guest of the president', in a mental health facility, that is to say, that they would spend the remainder of their untreated life in a mental health facility, restricted from their previous freedom, and locked away from society for the sake of the country.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, has in the past dealt with sex abuse in the church, as though it were inevitable:

'"It is clear that to the degree that Christians are not apart from the society in which they live, they will carry over from society some of its dominant features .

"Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that if there is sexual abuse of children in society, some members of the Church will, sad to say, carry it over into the Church."'

IOL | 'Abuse is problem among SA clergy: Archbishop' by Kashiefa Ajam at 3 November 2007

On 6th April 2010, Archbishop Bhuti Tlhagale of Johannesburg took a very different approach, perhaps with the views of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier in mind, or perhaps with those of others, it is unknown whether he has known of Wilfrid Napier's approach:

'In our times we have betrayed the very Gospel we preach. The Good News we claim to announce sounds so hollow, so devoid of any meaning when matched with our much publicized negative moral behavior. Many who looked up to priests as their model feel betrayed, ashamed and disappointed. They feel that some priests have “slipped away from the footprints of the Apostles.” Trust has been compromised. The halo has been tilted, if not broken. What happens in Ireland or in Germany or America affects us all. It simply means that the misbehavior of priests in Africa has not been exposed to the same glare of the media as in other parts of the world. We must therefore take responsibility for the hurt, the scandals, the pain and the suffering caused by ourselves who claim to be models of good behavior. The image of the Catholic Church is virtually in ruins because of the bad behavior of its priests, wolves wearing sheep's skin, preying on unsuspecting victims, inflicting irreparable harm, and continuing to do so with impunity. We are slowly but surely bent on destroying the church of God by undermining and tearing apart the faith of lay believers. …

The upshot of this sorry state of affairs is that we weaken the authoritative voice of the church. As church leaders, we become incapable of criticizing the corrupt and immoral behavior of the members of our respective communities. We become hesitant to criticize the greed and malpractices of our civic authorities. We are paralyzed and automatically become reluctant to guide young people in the many moral dilemmas they face.

Under such circumstances, when allegations after allegations are made, when scandal after scandal is brought forth, as clergy, we probably feel much closer to Judas Iscariot and his thirty pieces of silver. “Alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (Mk. 14.21). Or perhaps like Simon Peter, we are deeply buried in denial; we curse and swear when we hear the words: “You are one of them.” We answer: “I do not know the man you speak of.” Each time we toss our vows in the air, each time we break our fidelity, we betray Christ himself.'
First Things | 'The Moral Consequences of Episcopal Sin' by Edward T. Oakes 15th April 2010

South Africa has increasingly had to deal with sex abuse scandals and seemingly with allegedly guilty supervisors: with reports of South Africa's schools not replacing teachers who abuse children sexually, and Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, also facing a sex scandal, this one involving lecturers in the Arts and Journalism schools. Witwatersrand has hired a law firm to help investigate the allegations in their backyard. Sex abuse by teachers in South African schools, has also come to light lately, as has the terrible culture of rape in the country, which now has reared up its terrible form, whereby it is alleged by the Medical Research Council that a third of Gauteng men have performed rape, and one in ten have gang raped. As the Institute for Security Studies (or the ISS) wrote in 'Why we can't 'fight' violence', the solution may be to give psychological help to children who experience, or observe trauma and violence before they themselves become damagers, and devils of sorts to others, that does not excuse those who perform these heinous crimes from criminal responsibility however. The ISS unlike Napier, realises the great importance of some little thing called the Justice System, and the Rule of Law.


I have been pestering Cardinal Napier and a friend of his, about an interview. The Cardinal has not yet said yes, but his friend says he will ask for the Cardinal to accept an interview with me, so I can hopefully then do so. The Cardinal has been sticking sort of by his views on his social networks, below I quote these micro-blog entries of the Cardinal, who at present has not answered any of my own Tweeted or otherwise questions, but did respond to a Twitter user who asked him for clarity (in a manner that leaves even less clarity at present and creates all the more a need for a proper journalistic interrogation/interview of the matter, and how the Cardinal practices his views.):

Hopefully the Cardinal will allow an interview, where I put the facts to him and see his response on each.

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. The Archdiocese confirms that it is his address which sent the reply, and that this below is his view. I have not seen this statement anywhere else, it seems I am the first to receive it:


At the outset I confirm that I fully uphold the Church’s 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 1990’s 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. 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. 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 don’t 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

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