Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workOne would think Roman Catholic hierarchs would, by now, have learned to shut their faces when it comes to pedophilia. After all, it’s not as though they aren’t aware of the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal that’s torn through the Church globally for over 10 years now, and which continues to make sporadic headlines.

Yet, it seems they just can’t resist commenting on it, especially in ways that minimize the severity of the abuse and thus rationalize their unwillingness to deal with it in any way other than shuffling reported abusive clergy around. In an interview on BBC Radio, a South African cardinal has done precisely that (WebCite cached article):

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Fox Napier, has described paedophilia as a psychological “illness, not a criminal condition”.

The South African cardinal told the BBC that people who were themselves abused as children and then abused others needed to be examined by doctors.

He further explained why he thinks pedophilia is not criminal:

In an interview with the Stephen Nolan programme on BBC Radio 5 live, Cardinal Napier referred to paedophilia as “a psychological condition, a disorder”.

“What do you do with disorders? You’ve got to try and put them right.…

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.”

There are a few problems with this position:

  1. Even if pedophilia is truly an “illness,” that doesn’t mean pedophilia can’t simultaneously also be criminal too, meaning pedophiles may still be criminally liable for their actions. It’s possible for someone both to have an illness, and yet still be aware of the fact that they have it and that indulging it is a crime.
  2. Napier assumes pedophilia has only one cause, that being psychological damage as children. That’s an assumption that may well not be borne out by the facts. Sure, Napier might personally know two pedophiles who fit that bill, but he’s leaping to conclusions about all pedophiles, based only on these two.
  3. The point of Napier’s remarks is that he has more sympathy for pedophiliac priests than he has for their victims. This is misplaced. If, as he assumes, pedophilia is truly a cyclical illness, transmitted from pedophile to victim through successive generations, the best thing for him to do when it happens, is to nip it in the bud: To take all such allegations seriously; see that victims are helped as soon as possible; and wall off the pedophiles from doing it again and thus spreading their “illness” any further.

Once again, we have here a Catholic hierarch whose priorities are completely out of whack, and whose thinking has no basis in reason or fact. The cold truth is that pedophiliac acts are criminal, in virtually every jurisdiction on the planet. Trying to justify or rationalize it, can never change that. But it seems they quite simply will not stop doing so. They can’t, because they view the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal as a vicious attack that comes from outside their own Church. In the hierarchs’ minds, no one within the Church — not the abusers, nor the bishops who protected them — have done anything wrong. They’re all totally innocent. And they absolutely, totally refuse to accept responsibility for it — ever.

Photo credit: Science After Sunclipse.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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