"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Monday, 18 March 2013

Catholic Archbishop says abusing Priests are not criminally responsible

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Fox Napier, has said in an interview that paedophilia is a psychological illness and not "a criminal condition". The claim was made on BBC Radio 5 Live where he went on to say…
"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 when he was himself damaged."
…referring to Priests he was aware of that had themselves been abused as children.
Now, I’m going to choose my words carefully as any defense of paedophilia can be seen as abhorrent by some people but in a limited sense I agree with him. Paedophilia is a paraphilia which may have its roots in early childhood abuse or it may simply be part of a range of human sexuality that includes all sorts of deviation (not meant pejoratively) from the heterosexual, age appropriate norms of modern society. However paedophiles have, in common with compulsive rapists, an insurmountable problem when it comes to satisfying their sexuality in that they have no potential consensual partners.
Our society, for good reason, does not consider minors to be emotionally capable of consenting to sex, even with each other let alone with an adult so any paedophile who acts on their desires immediately becomes an abuser. This must be so and must carry the full weight of the law, because there is no way to know how many paedophiles are actually in the general population who need to be deterred from abusing.
Risking making an argument from personal incredulity, I cannot believe there are any paedophiles who do not understand the profound wrongness of grooming and enticing children into sex. Our culture is explicit about this and transgressors get high profile coverage and stiff sentences not to mention the disgust of the population at large. So whilst Cardinal Napier maybe correct that abusers need counseling and therapy or whatever, he is totally off the mark when he suggests it is inappropriate to punish as well.
On one hand the Cardinal is actually espousing a progressive and liberal view of a subset of people many of whom are undoubtedly living their lives in emotional turmoil. On the other hand he appears to be doing so in an effort to exculpate abusive Priests from their moral responsibility for their actions and excuse the Church for aiding and abetting them. This cannot be allowable, and in some respects is precisely the attitude that got the Church into this position in the first place. A celibate priesthood must seem like a godsend (pun intended) to someone whose sexuality will never be socially acceptable, but then he finds himself not only with unfettered access to young children but in an institution that will shield him from the worst consequences of his actions. To suggest that these priests are not morally and criminally responsible on the basis that they couldn’t help it is wrong and dangerous in the extreme.

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