So you understand that not all pedophiles are molesters. You don't think all the pedophiles need to be shot because they might become molesters. You even think they deserve to be able to get mental health resources. Maybe you feel a little bit of sympathy for them as people. But -- for God's sake, keep them away from the children!
I think you have a lot of company. This is based on a common but flawed thought process, <the availability heuristic>. When you think of a pedophile, you think of a molester who is molesting. You imagine a man in the presence of a child about to molest him or her, and you want to interrupt it. Get the man away! But you do not bring to mind the thousands of times pedophiles interact with children and do not molest them.
The problem is that pedophiles live in the wide world, and children live in the wide world, and they're bound to be in the same place sometimes. Pedophiles have siblings, nieces and nephews, and next-door neighbors. They pass children in the street, at restaurants, in stores, at church.
One sort of person who isn't so completely overwhelmed by the availability heuristic is the probation officer supervising child molesters who are released back into the community. The programs to support these ex-offenders recognize that children are going to show up in a man's life. The German Dunkelfeld program (while dealing with undetected offenders) focuses on getting the man to recognize dangerous situations where one thing might lead to another and to interrupt those patterns -- not to avoid children completely. The people who have to deal with real molesters as real people handle this at a pragmatic level. They do not assume that an ex-offender is a danger to every child and realize they can't create a child-free zone.
Now shift focus to celibate pedophiles -- men who have never molested a child. Civil rights would suggest that there should be no legal restrictions on these men's activities at all. But should these men observe restrictions out of prudence and morality? It is worth considering, but what's immediately clear is that no blanket prohibition makes sense. If a man is only attracted to boys aged 9 to 15, why should he avoid spending time with 4-year-old girls? If some particular 12-year-old boy is not at all attractive to him, is there any need to avoid him? A sensible policy is also tailored to the reactions of the man in question. If he starts feeling light-headed in the presence of some 12-year-old boy or feels compulsions that he isn't sure he can resist, that is an excellent reason to get out of the situation and avoid it in the future. But if he is only aware of a positive warm regard for him and feels no sexual impulses at all, he should be fine.
There is a scientific hypothesis that pedophiles have crossed wires in their brains. As described by sex researcher James Cantor, whereas children bring out the protective instincts in most adults, they instead bring out the romantic and sexual interests in pedophiles. If your entire experience of pedophiles is molesters, this will make sense -- any man who molests a child is showing a notable deficiency in sound protective instincts. But based on the reports of celibate pedophiles online, what is far more common is that the sexual interest is in addition to the protective instinct. Pedophiles tend to genuinely like children, children frequently sense this genuine affection, and mutually rewarding friendships often result. Anyone who recalls from their childhood a favorite unmarried uncle or family friend might well be remembering a celibate pedophile.
Sometimes, in addition to running into children in the natural course of life, celibate pedophiles seek children out. Exclusive pedophiles are denied the warm and loving relationships that other people take for granted. For some of them, these non-sexual friendships with children are the closest they can get and are very rewarding. If they are confident that it can be kept entirely non-sexual, they should feel no need to stay away from these children.
One way to think about it is that if a man is the sort who is likely to abuse a child, he will ignore any advice about staying away from children. When the conscientious pedophile hears the advice, he may deprive himself of a chance at a little happiness in life that would harm no one. As often happens, policies intended to stop the guilty end up hurting the innocent.
I was once brainstorming with a woman who was planning a sympathetic documentary on pedophiles. I suggested perhaps a scene of a pedophile playing innocently with a child. She did not think that would go over well, and I trust her judgment-- maybe it's a step too far. But it happens all the time, all over the world, with closeted pedophiles.