Leading French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy defended himself Tuesday after saying he believes pedophiles are predestined from birth.
The comments, which Sarkozy made in an interview with Philosophie Magazine, were attacked by other candidates. Philosophers and the Roman Catholic church have also criticized him for suggesting people cannot change.
Sarkozy said he raised the question for discussion, and that he did not have answers.
"What percentage of it is innate and acquired? At least let's debate it, let's not close the door to all debate," Sarkozy said on France-2 television Tuesday.
In the interview, Sarkozy was quoted as saying, "I'm inclined, personally, to think that you are born pedophile, and it's a problem that we don't know how to treat this pathology.
"There are 1,200 to 1,300 youths who kill themselves in France each year, and it's not because their parents took care of them badly. It's because, genetically, they had an underlying fragility and pain ... Circumstances aren't everything, the share of the innate is immense."
Opinion polls show Sarkozy as front-runner for the April 22 vote, followed by Socialist Segolene Royal. Francois Bayrou, a candidate pledging to bridge France's traditional left-right divide, is third.
Bayrou has said he completely disagrees with Sarkozy, and that his ideas are out of place in a democratic society at the start of the 21st century. Philippe de Villiers, a far-right candidate, complained that Sarkozy's comments were "a throwback to another era."
Monsignor Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, also criticized Sarkozy, saying, "What seems most serious to me is the idea that you can't change the course of destiny."