A Roman Catholic Cardinal has claimed that paedophilia should be treated as a medical condition, not as a crime.

Speaking to the BBC the Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, Wilfrid Fox Napier, said child sex abusers were suffering from: "a psychological condition, a disorder".

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

"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."

He said that he had spoken to two priests who had abused children and were themselves abused.

"Now 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. He was himself damaged."

Cardinal Napier was one of the 115 members of the papal conclave which elected Francis I as the new pope earlier this week.

His comments have sparked outrage from campaigners and abuse victims.

Barbara Dorries, who as a child was abused by a priest, works for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which is based in Chicago.

She told the BBC: "If it is a disease that's fine, but it's also a crime and crimes are punished, criminals are held accountable for what they did and what they do.

"The bishops and the cardinals have gone to great lengths to cover these crimes to enable the predators to move on, to not be arrested, to keep the secrets within the church."

In recent years, a string of child sex abuse scandals has rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

This week the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles awarded $10 million to victims abused by former priest Michael Baker.

Last year a Chilean bishop resigned after being accused of sexually abusing an altar boy.