16 Mar 2013 at 09:12
If you get the chance tune your BBC IPlayer into last night’s Stephen Nolan show on 5 live. It is probably the most extraordinary radio experience I have been part of in nearly thirty years of broadcasting.
It started with a routine interview with Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban South Africa about the election of Pope Francis. After a few minutes of the usual and predictable Nolan slipped in a question about paedophile priests. His response was quite shocking. In the interest of fairness and context I produce the full transcript which I suspect will surprise and shock you.
CARDINAL NAPIER: “Well look what is paedophilia, it’s a condition, its a psychological condition, its a disorder. What do you do with disorders? You got to try and put them right. If I as a normal being chose to break the law, knowing that I am breaking the law, then I think I need to be punished. But if you tell me that that somebody who’s got a psychological condition, from my experience paedophilia is actually an illness. It is not a criminal condition, its an illness. I know of at least two priests who became paedophiles , who had themselves been abused as children. Now don’t tell me that these people are criminally responsible for somebody who chooses to do something like that. I don’t think that you can you can really take the position and say that the person deserves to be punished.”
NAPIER: “He was himself damaged”.
The Cardinal then went on to say that if there were cases of child abuse he wasn’t qualified to say whether a criminal offence had been committed.
If these are commonplace views of senior clergy, then poor old Pope Francis has one hell of a problem on his hands.I have been prosecuting and defending paedophiles for years. It is not an illness, it is an obsession. Whatever programmes are available everyone knows that once they are released they are very likely to strike again. That is why we have the Sexual Offences register whereby they have to report changes of address to the police.
After the Napier interview the switchboard lit up. Middle aged men who had been abused as children sobbing with the guilt, the shame and how their lives had been wrecked. Someone who claimed to be a reformed paedophile and another who has these inclinations and didn’t know how to get help.It was moving and riveting radio.
There is a delightful innocence about Nolan that makes listeners reveal their innermost secrets. They trust him. Last week we had transgender callers ringing in saying they knew that they were in the wrong bodies from the age of three.
But back to the Cardinal. Shame on his ignorance, shame on his lack of compassion for the abused and shame on his lack of Christianity. Some of these people live in another world.
And not one that I would wish to inhabit.