Cardinals attend a mass at St. Peter's Basilica before the conclave on March 12, 2013 at the Vatican.

South Africa's Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Fox Napier, commented in a BBC interview that he believed pedophiles who had themselves been abused as children are not "criminally responsible," a stance that has swiftly earned the cardinal international condemnation.

"What do you do with disorders? You've got to try and put them right," said Napier. "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."

Read more from GlobalPost: Can the Catholic Church outgrow the pope’s antediluvian philosophy?

"Now don't tell me that those people are criminally responsible like somebody who chooses to do something like that," said the 72-year-old Napier, who cited other pedophile priests who knew of who had been sexually abused as children in the BBC interview, which can be listened to in full at this link.

"I don't think you can really take the position and say that person deserves to be punished. He was himself damaged," Napier said.

Cardinal Napier, somewhat unusually among Catholic cardinals, has a regularly updated Twitter account.

Here's Napier on the conclave experience:

The Catholic Church has regularly been accused of protecting instead of prosecuting pedophiliac priests, including a January revelation that two Catholic church officials in Los Angeles had worked to conceal the actions of child-molesting priests from police as late as 1987, according to Reuters.

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