Posts Tagged “cardinal ratzinger”

This 1985 letter, written in Latin to the bishop of Oakland, Calif., was signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was head of the Vatican office that disciplined abusive priests.As the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal has continued to rumble around Europe — most recently having made its appearance in Malta — the Vatican’s position has consistently been that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, who once headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had been responsible for handling such allegations, had known nothing about it until the early 2000s, and since becoming Pope in 2005, he has taken command of the problem and dealt with abusers harshly. But the AP got its hands on a 1985 letter which suggests otherwise. As they report via Google News, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was actually reluctant to discipline or defrock a priest in the Oakland, California diocese who had already been convicted of abuse (WebCite cached article):

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 case against Rev Stephen Kiesle had already languished for four years by the time Cardinal Ratzinger wrote back to John Cummins, then bishop of Oakland:

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’s guilt by that time was not in question, and Kiesle himself had requested to be defrocked:

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.

As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him.

So by the time of this 1985 letter, Ratzinger had been working to keep a man who wanted out of the priesthood, in his vestments for 4 full years! And it would take 2 more until he was finally tossed out!

The Vatican’s denials that Cardinal Ratzinger wasn’t aware of the problem of priests abusing children, decades ago, are quite obviously untrue. How many more lies will they tell in order to keep propping him up?

Photo credit: Kim Johnson / AP (via USA Today)

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Pope Benedict XVIIt’s official. Pope Benedict XVI has, in fact, been directly involved in at least one priestly-pedophilia case. It happened while he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising (and a Cardinal as well). The (UK) Times reports on this revelation (WebCite cached article):

The Pope was drawn directly into the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal last night as news emerged of his part in a decision to send a paedophile priest for therapy. The cleric went on to reoffend and was convicted of child abuse but continues to work as a priest in Upper Bavaria.

The priest was sent from Essen to Munich for therapy in 1980 when he was accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The archdiocese confirmed that the Pope, who was then a cardinal, had approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place.

The priest, identified only as H, was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing minors after he was moved to pastoral work in nearby Grafing. In 1986 he was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined DM 4,000 (£1,800 today). There have been no formal charges against him since.

Of course, underlings are trying to shield the Pope from culpability:

The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising said that there had been no complaints against the priest during the therapy at a church community in Munich. It said that the decision to let him continue working in Grafing was taken by Gerhard Gruber, now 81, who was vicar general of the archdiocese.

The Vatican said that Mgr Gruber had taken “full responsibility” for the priest’s move back into pastoral work but did not comment further.

Mgr Gruber said that the Pope, who was made a cardinal in 1977, had not been not aware of his decision because there were 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time and he had left many decisions to lower-level officials. “The cardinal could not deal with everything,” he said. “The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake … I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologise to all those who were harmed.” He did not indicate whether the convicted paedophile would be allowed to continue working in the church.

It is true that — perhaps — then-Cardinal Ratzinger had not been informed about the details of H’s case, at the time he was sent to therapy, and later restored to pastoral work. However, that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility; Ratzinger signed the reassignment order, and should have known the reasons for it, even if he didn’t ask.

In any event, it’s awfully convenient for the Pope that Fr Gruber is willing to take the fall for him, over this. The trouble is, with 170 claims of priestly child abuse in Germany now being looked into, it may not turn out that H was the only pedophile priest to have been active in the Munich and Freising archdiocese, during Ratzinger’s episcopal administration.

Photo credit: Sergey Gabdurakhmanov.

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