In a statement that sent shockwaves through the Catholic community, a South African cardinal who helped elect Pope Francis told the BBC that in his estimation, pedophilia is nothing more than an illness.
A March 18 report from the CS Monitor states South Africa Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier apologized for what he termed a “botched” interview. The cardinal now says pedophilia is "a heinous crime."
Cardinal Napier, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban, originally told BBC Radio 5 on March 16 that pedophilia was a treatable "disorder.”
"From my experience, pedophilia is actually an illness. It's not a criminal condition, it's an illness," he said.
"Now don't tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like that,” Napier said. “I don't think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged."
Cardinal Napier quickly amended his statement and issued a swift apology, after victims' rights groups and others said his comments were insensitive, especially in light of the child sex abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church for decades.
"I apologize 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," Napier said in a statement today.
The damage was already done. His words showed a shocking lack of understanding of basic tenets of the christian faith.
Justice Malala, a prominent political analyst in Johannesburg, named Napier "loser of the week" on his television show. Malala said the Cardinal's remarks were an embarrassment to all Catholics.
Napier was one of the 115 cardinals in the Vatican conclave that elected Pope Francis on March 13.