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At the outset I confirm that I fully uphold the Church’s position that:
- Sexual Abuse of Children is a horrendous crime against Children, their Families, the Church and Society.
- It is to be dealt with according to the requirements of civil criminal law and Canon Law.
- 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.
- Once civil action has been concluded the local Church submits the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
- 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