This interview has created a great deal of controversy. Why? Well because personally I believe that Stephen Nolan and other media used a byline that did not in anyway reflect what Cardinal Napier said, but was guaranteed to attract attention. I write more on this in this other post - "Cardinal Napier Sacrificed". The entire purpose of this interview was for Stephen Nolan, from BBC Radio 5, to discuss the election of Pope Francis with Cardinal Napier. As seems to be par for the course with journalists today, this clearly was not the true reason for the interview.
Those wanting to listen to the interview. Here it is. The transcript, with time references, follows.
“SN” in this transcript: Stephen Nolan
“CN” in this transcript: Cardinal Napier
Time into Interview: 00:00
CN: It was fascinating, you know the … what I couldn’t help doing was comparing the two Conclaves, the one in 2005 and this one in this past few days. The main difference of course being that in 2005 there were only two Cardinals who had actually been to a Conclave before, whereas this time there were over 50 who had done it before. So that created a very different expectation and different atmosphere I think.
SN: Can you describe the atmosphere?
Time into Interview: 00:29
CN: The atmosphere was one of anticipation I suppose. It was also an atmosphere of whose it going to be because I think the fact that we had quite a few days of exchanges in the congregations of the Cardinals meant that there were a lot more questions that had been put on the table and therefore possibly more candidates that people would have suggested in the way they voted and indeed that’s how it turned out there were quite a lot … the first vote was rather spread out.
SN: How did you feel when Pope Francis was announced?
Time into Interview: 01:04
CN: Very, very, very touched by the fact that when he answered the question, the first one, do you accept, and he said yes, even though I am a sinner, I do accept.
SN: Do you really think he will be a reformer?
Time into Interview: 01:15
CN: I don’t think that’s the reason why the Pope is elected. I think he is going to be a leader and the way he leads will help others to reform themselves. I don’t think he’s going to come in and say you’ve got to change here and you’ve got to change there. He’s already showing by his own actions that he is changing himself and doing things in a different way and I am sure that’s going to catch on.
SN: Do you not think there is radical reform needed within the Catholic Church?
Time into Interview: 01:44
CN: Why would you say that?
SN: Because obviously many would refer to the mismanagement of sexual abuse cases, they would …
Time into Interview: 01:55
CN: Just hold on now. You know that’s when I get rather, how would I say, upset when I hear people making generalisations like that. How do you, when the cases have been now referred to the Doctrine of the Faith and the Doctrine of the Faith is working flat out in handling these cases, I don’t know how anyone can say in this day and age, that the cases are actually still being mishandled?
SN: Well because …
Time into Interview: 02:22
CN: It may have happened in the past, in may have happened in the past when no one had experience on this but I think since Pope Benedict when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger at the office … the Doctrine of the Faith office and Pope John Paul said that all cases should be referred to the Doctrine of the Faith, since then I don’t think there are grounds for saying that the cases are being mismanaged.
SN: I think there are many victims who would legitimately argue that they don’t really care if the Church gets upset or, with all due respect, you get upset, they have had to wait for justice for sometimes many decades and that the justice is only coming now and the Church is only handling it now after media pressure, not because the Church wanted to – not because they felt a moral compulsion to do so…
Time into Interview: 03:16
CN: That may be your opinion but I don’t think that it tallies with the facts.
SN: Well what are the facts? Why do you think the Catholic Church is handling it now?
Time into Interview: 03:24
CN: I’m a bishop who has had to handle cases and I know that when I got the … I followed the protocol that we had developed. Went through every step of the protocol according to the way it had been at that time was seen to be the best practice and I really would resent it if someone said to me you mishandled that case.
SN: Well what was the protocol that you followed? You had been given evidence of abuse within the Church?
Time into Interview: 03:53
CN: We handled cases where people had come forward and said I was abused by father so and so. And the protocol said these are the steps that have to be taken in order to establish whether this allegation is true. Once the allegation is true other steps then have to be taken. Now what other way can you deal with something of this kind?
SN: But we have seen that even when the Church had concrete evidence that allegations were true, some of those people remained within the Church. Some of those people did not go to prison, were not investigated by the police, were moved within the Church.
Time into Interview: 04:33
CN: That depends on what country you were in. For instances in our country, in South Africa, there was no way I as bishop could have accused somebody and reported the case and made a case with the police. It would have to be the victim themselves who would have to make the case against the person and only then could the justice system kick in. I don’t see how you could say that if the victim then said we don’t want this thing to go to the police, how can you then say the Church is mishandling the thing by respecting the victim’s own request. I think we’ve got to be fair and not generalise. You’ve got to actually have cases in point and follow them through from the beginning to the end before you can say this case was mishandled, that one was handled properly.
SN: And that’s why I am really appreciative of your time this evening Cardinal because you’re someone who had to deal with specific cases. So when you dealt with those specific cases, what actually happened with some of the priests involved? Were they banned from ever having contact, for example…
Time into Interview: 05:48
CN: Some of the priests went, according to the wisdom of the time, the best information that we had from psychologists, they went for treatment, came back and have been under – what we call it – personal surveillance and have functioned quite normally ever since. Others left the priesthood, they were laicised, but it depended on each case being handled differently because of the peoples conditions were different.
SN: And those would be priests who had abused children, would they?
Time into Interview: 06:23
CN: That’s right, yes.
SN: What type of treatment did they receive?
Time into Interview: 06:28
CN: They were centres like St Luke’s in America where deep psychological therapy and all that kind of stuff, which at the time the people said this was actually something that could help – it could help to control the condition - it might not cure the condition, but we know since that those very same centres have said look the success rate of treatment is such that you have to remove these people completely from the priesthood and not put them back into positions of authority.
SN: And those priests, I mean this is really fascinating this actually, those priest who received treatment, who you were aware of, did they have further contact with children after treatment.
Time into Interview: 07:08
CN: No, that was one of the conditions that they would not.
SN: So how did they contact their business?
Time into Interview: 07:14
CN: I think you seem to be giving the impression that when a bishop handles a case he is doing it recklessly, without due attention, without due care for the welfare of children. Nothing could be further from the truth.
SN: But usually people receive treatment if they are ill. If they have an illness, not because they have abused and have engaged in criminal activity. Those types of people usually go to jail.
Time into Interview: 07:39
CN: What do people go to jail for? Isn’t it to rehabilitate them into society?
SN: But they don’t get sent to hospital. They don’t get treatment.
Time into Interview: 07:51
CN: Why not? I mean I’m sure there are people who get put into - psychopaths who committed crimes that are put under treatment. That’s my experience of it that people don’t just get put into jail punitively but there are efforts to rehabilitate them and provide them with the kind of medical, mental, psychological care that will help to rehabilitate them.
SN: But do you believe Cardinal that these priests who received treatment deserved to be punished?
Time into Interview: 08:25
CN: Look, if you are acting out of a defect in your own character, are you culpable, are you totally culpable that you must be punished or are you simply ill that you need to be treated and you need to be cured.
SN: So you do not think that a paedophile needs to be punished?
Time into Interview: 08:45
CN: Well look, what is paedophilia? It’s a condition. It’s a psychological condition. It’s a disorder. What do you do with disorders? You have got to try and put them right. Sin is a disorder. In other words we should say all sinners don’t even try to come to Confession because you are going to fall back into sin again and that is not the reality of what the Church is about.
SN: So do you believe, even in this day and age, Cardinal, that it is okay for a paedophile to be treated and not punished?
Time into Interview: 09:15
CN: Look, I don’t think you’re understanding me. What are you punishing? If I as a normal human, if I as a normal being choose to break the law, knowing that I'm breaking the law, then I think I need to be punished. But if you tell me that someone who has got a psychological condition, lets take for instance manic-depressive…
SN: No let’s take a paedophile… No Cardinal, let’s take paedophile.
Time into Interview: 09:42
CN: Paedophilia is something that you seem to have a very simple answer to. From my experience paedophilia is actually an illness, it’s not a criminal condition, it’s an illness. And that is what I get from psychologists who have helped us to deal with cases. In fact I will tell you one thing that I know of at least two of the priests who became paedophiles or who committed acts against children - whether they’re paedophiles I am not in a position to judge that because I think that needs the expert opinion – who had been abusers had themselves been abused as children. Now don’t tell me that those people are criminally responsible like someone who chooses to do something like that; when they themselves have been abused as children they then as adults they then abuse children. I don’t think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished …
Time into Interview: 10:50
CN: …when he was himself damaged.
Time into Interview: 10:51
SN: So you think …
Time into Interview: 10:52
CN: You see I think when you come to a place like this here you should actually do your research much more thoroughly because …
SN: Cardinal, with all due respect I have spoken over many many years of my career to many victims of abuse and what you are saying this evening is that if someone has been abused you can understand why they might abuse themselves and they should not be subject to a criminal investigation. Is that what you are saying?
Time into Interview: 11:22
CN: No I am not saying that at all. You’re putting words in my mouth. What I’m saying …
SN: What are you saying?
Time into Interview: 11:25
CN: What I am saying is can you then describe that person as a criminal …
Time into Interview: 11:30
CN: … if that’s the damage that’s been done to them…
SN: Yes you can.
Time into Interview: 11:34
CN: …by the abuse that they received. Now you can’t tell me that that person is the same as somebody who chooses to abuse children.
SN: Any person, Cardinal, who abusers a child is a criminal. Why are you suggesting otherwise?
Time into Interview: 11:50
CN: I am not suggesting … oh my goodness. Sorry this conversation has gone long enough. You are putting words in my mouth that I have not spoken.
SN: Well just for clarity because I do want to be fair to you. I am sorry if I have misrepresented you.
Time into Interview: 12:06
CN: You are really very offensive in the way that you are trying to imply that I am not taking this thing seriously.
SN: No, no, I think you are taking this very seriously but for clarity if someone has been abused and they then go on to abuse a child, how do you view that activity? Is that activity criminal activity?
Time into Interview: 12:27
CN: I cannot pass a judgement on that. That is a medical… that’s something that the medical people have to pass a judgement on. Whether this person can be held criminally responsible is something that they are in a qualified position to … qualified to make a judgement, not me.
SN: And do you think …
Time into Interview: 12:58
CN: I mean why do … you have, you have people going to court and there the court declares them medically unfit to stand trial. Now is that not saying that in some instances people have committed crimes but because they have not been in the full control of their faculties they have not been therefore found to be fit to stand trial for that criminal offence. What I am saying is that in one case at least I know that the priest who had been abused himself and when he found that this was something that was wrong in his character he asked to be laicised.
SN: When he was caught or after he did it?
Time into Interview: 13:40
CN: Doesn’t matter. When he realised this was his condition he asked to be laicised.
SN: Of course it matters. It’s a huge difference Cardinal if someone asks to be laicised after they’ve been caught or whether they present themselves asking for help. It’s a huge difference isn’t there?
Time into Interview: 13:57
CN: I don’t think that you are really serious about this conversation because you’re trying to push me into a corner, you’re trying to get me to say things that are going to go according to the way you would like them to go and I don’t see what point there is in carrying on. Honestly, if you really wanted to… you were asking me about the Pope; that was my understanding about this conversation…
Time into Interview: 14:17
CN: It was going to be about the Pope, now you diverted it onto something, which is in my experience – I can’t speak for what you’re talking about in Ireland or Europe or England – I can speak about the cases that I have had to deal with. I have given you my clear understanding, my clear way of dealing with those matters.
SN: Can I say sir that I do respect you and all I am trying to do here is to get an insight into … because sexual abuse and how the Church handles sexual abuse, this we can agree on, is a huge issue and all I’m trying to do is get an insight, because you’ve been there, I haven’t, and you’ve had to handle some of these cases and I’m only trying to reflect some of the questions that maybe some of the people at home will be thinking, for example, do you think there is …
Time into Interview: 15:01
CN: No, no, what you are actually trying to say – you’re trying to say that I am minimising the seriousness of the cases …
SN: Absolutely not. Let me make it clear…
Time into Interview: 15:09
CN: …that I am saying that somebody who has offended – who has committed an offence against a child is not criminally liable. I am not saying anything of the kind. I am saying that I am not qualified to say whether they are or not.
SN: Do you think, Cardinal, that the media has been unfair in representing the Church … over sexual abuse?
Time into Interview: 15:26
CN: Yes, I do. I will give you an example of why. For instance I have been asked in these last few weeks, isn’t it a pity that Cardinal Ratzinger’s – Pope Benedict XVI’s – pontificate has gone out on such a controversial note - look at all the way the sex abuse cases have been mishandled. Now, I have challenged journalists and I have said look, before you make that statement, just go and enquire into what Cardinal Ratzinger did as head of the Doctrine of the Faith and what as Pope he has done in order to allay some of the concerns that have arisen over sex abuse cases and how these have been handled and if you do that research you will find that it was precisely because bishops were not able to handle cases that Pope John Paul said all cases, once its established that there is good reason to believe that a child has been abused, those cases are to be referred to the Doctrine of the Faith. I am living here at St Isidore’s and here there is one of the friars who is full time working on those cases. So they are being handled as efficiently and as effectively as they possibly can.
SN: Thank you so much for spending so much time with us, I really appreciate it sir.
Time into Interview: 16:59
CN: You’re welcome.
SN: Thank you very much. Thank you Cardinal.
CN: Okay, bye bye.