The signature above is that of "Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger," who would become Pope Benedict XVI. That signature was on a 1985 document uncovered by the AP, a document in which the cardinal said, in effect, he didn't think it was such a great idea to laicize a pederast priest in California.
Presented with an incriminating document, Vatican officials insisted that the American press believe the unbelievable. Here is a bit of the AP report, but do go to MSNBC and read the whole thing:
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.LET US REVIEW. The Diocese of Oakland flat-out tells the Vatican one of its priests is a stone-cold child molester.
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 confirmed Friday that it was 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.
Another spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the letter showed no attempt at a cover-up. "The then-Cardinal Ratzinger didn't cover up the case, but as the letter clearly shows, made clear the need to study the case with more attention, taking into account the good of all involved."
The diocese recommended removing Kiesle from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office that 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, who married after leaving the priesthood, was arrested and charged in 2002 with 13 counts of child molestation from the 1970s. All but two were thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a California law extending the statute of limitations.
He pleaded no contest in 2004 to a felony for molesting a young girl in his Truckee home in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in state prison.
The Diocese of Oakland tells the Vatican it's really, really important that this clerical molester be drummed out of the priesthood.
The Vatican sits on the case for several years. And then when the diocese gets a response, in 1985, it's from Cardinal Ratzinger -- the future pope -- saying, basically, "Not so fast, boys. Is it really good for the universal church to be kicking kiddie rapers to the curb here?"
And now, when the wire service tells the Vatican what it has, officials there confirm it's Ratzinger's signature, but stress they don't "believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations."
Translation into American English: "Oh, s***!"
Out of context? What the hell context justifies -- after being told, as an established fact, that a priest is a pervert and, in fact, has acted on his perversion . . . with children -- placing appearances over justice, over protecting Catholic children?
How do you finesse that which cannot be finessed?
HERE'S WHAT is becoming quite plain. The Catholic Church -- and I am sure it is not alone among earthly institutions in this -- developed a culture of juridical and moral deviance when it came to its perception of, and its dealing with, pederasty. That culture was every bit as perverted as the child-raping priests it coddled and shielded from justice.
And Pope Benedict XVI was part of that culture. He bought into that culture. To the extent that he no longer buys into that culture, it is a relatively recent development in his long priestly vocation.
That seems clear, and yet the Vatican -- and many Catholics around the world -- cannot deal with that, almost as if admitting that the pope is human, possessing human frailties and committing human sins, would cause the whole edifice of the Catholic Church to come tumbling down.
O ye of little faith.
Obviously, we're still not done with the excuses, and we're certainly not done with the wagon-circling or the media-bashing. That, however, doesn't alter the fact that there really is only one thing left for the church to do -- something it absolutely requires of us mere laymen.
It is long past time for institutional Catholicism to confess its sins against God, against itself and especially against its children. It is long past time for the church to confess, to repent, to exhibit a "firm purpose of amendment" . . . and then to do penance.
Just do it. Otherwise, there will be hell to pay.