For ‘the good of the universal church’

The AP is now raising the stakes in tying the future Pope Benedict XVI to a sex-abuse scandal involving a former, monstrous Oakland priest.

The Diocese of Oakland recommended defrocking the priest in 1981, three years after he pleaded no contest to tying up and molesting two boys.

According to the AP, Ratzinger did not respond for four years. Then he refused to defrock the priest, writing of the “detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful.”

Is it a legitimate story that makes the future pope look really bad or another example of biased, anti-Catholic reporting?

Here it is:

*****

AP EXCLUSIVE: Future pope stalled pedophile case

By GILLIAN FLACCUS (AP) – 1 hour ago

LOS ANGELES — The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican’s insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

The Vatican refused to comment on the contents of the letter Friday, but a spokesman confirmed it bore Ratzinger’s signature.

“The press office doesn’t believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature.”

The diocese recommended removing Kiesle (KEEZ’-lee) from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office which shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.

The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. It was two more years before Kiesle was removed.

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of “grave significance” but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with “as much paternal care as possible” while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the “good of the universal church” and the “detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly considering the young age.” Kiesle was 38 at the time.

Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory. Continue reading

John Allen looks at Ratzinger/Benedict’s response to abuse

The growing numbers of news reports about Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals in Germany and Ireland will draw every possible reaction from observers.

Some will say that it’s about time that the media are focusing on decades of abuse.

Others will say that the abuse cases in question date back to the 60s, 70s and sometimes 80, and that it is irresponsible for the media to cover these things as if they happened yesterday.

The fact that Pope Benedict XVI has been tied indirectly to one notorious case will ensure that emotions on all sides are hotter than ever.

JohnLAllenI have to recommend that people who want to get a handle on things read John Allen’s outstanding analysis in NCR. He focuses on Cardinal Ratzinger’s response to sex-abuse allegations and how he, as the pope, has evolved.

I see it as a detailed, comprehensive, pretty balanced and ultimately educational look at a big story. Of course, others will see it quite differently.

In fact, if you read it, go on and read the dozens of comments afterward. They cover the gamut.

He’s getting killed by critics of the church, like this one:

*****

I realize, John, that for your access to your sources at the Vatican, you cannot be too blunt. But talk about who has been drinking the Kool-Aid, you must be on a sugar-high! This is the Pope we are talking about who is able to demote and/or remove anyone in the hierarchy!!!! Not ONE bishop from the United States has been removed by this Pope; not ONE!!!!!!

*****

And he’s taking it from defenders of the church, like this one:

*****

Benedict is one of the greatest Popes in the History of the Church! There is so much more to all of this then know, we should becareful with what we say! He is the Pope, God had chosen him to lead his people in a World full of hate for the Church and our Lord.

*****

Many readers are arguing that John bends over backwards to present the pope in the best possible light.

The comments make for good reading. But read John first.