Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Vatican today: Homina, homina, homina

What The New York Times started, The Associated Press just might have finished.

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.

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.
LET US REVIEW. The Diocese of Oakland flat-out tells the Vatican one of its priests is a stone-cold child molester.

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?

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.



James H said...

Or we can wait and see what develops.

What is missing from your post and you being the fair person you are will hopefully add it for your readers was not only The Diocese wanting him to be returned to the Lay State but so did the Priest.

What is also missing and I think would be informative was the Bishop had removed this guy from Ministry and the Vatican was quite aware it appears that he had been stripped of Pastoral duties and it appears he was not getting them back.

I do agree that these cases should have been segregated and on the fast track from the other cases. I think that was a error just to have them in the same fod chain

However it appears the Vatican was very aware that for all purposes he was not a acting as a Priest anymore.

That is the context.

As I have said I thought the issue was the hiding of abusive priests, shipping them to places, and such.

I did not know the over riding issue was some formal document of being Laicized.

I understand the need for that and I understand the need to move those faster. However I am much more concerned that Priest that abuse children or not in the ministry. That used to be the issue.

Again I think mistakes were made but I think we are losing the Forest for the trees here.

However if some formal paper that declares them in the Lay State makes people happy well fine. I just think it is the least of worries

The Mighty Favog said...

No, the important fact here isn't that he wanted out of the clerical state, the important thing is that the diocese wanted him gone, too, and kept pressing the point with the Vatican. And kept getting met by inaction.

The other important fact is the reason the diocese wanted him gone. He was a CONVICTED sex offender.

I fear you are seeing the trees, but not much of the forest here. The normal, human reaction ought to have been, "Holy s***! I'll see what I can do to cut the red tape and get this done quickly. Yes, the greater scandal will be if we leave him as a priest, period."

Furthermore, while you argue that he wasn't functioning as a priest anymore, you fail to mention that the diocese's supervision was so lax that he VOLUNTEERED as a YOUTH MINISTER at a parish he had once served.

You will argue, of course, that this wasn't the future pope's fault. No, it wasn't -- that is totally on the diocese. But what is the fault of the Vatican is that this guy wasn't gone, period.

Every aspect of the case cried out to heaven that the man ought to have been gone. EVERYBODY wanted him gone -- even Stephen Kiesle himself.

Only Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't sure that he should be laicized. That is inexplicable.

Furthermore, what you fail to mention are the cases from Arizona that also are hanging over the Vatican's head here. There is a pattern.

What is different about the California case is they actually have Ratzinger's signature on a letter that, given the facts of the case, is just incomprehensible.

The pope is human. He obviously did what humans do -- he f***ed up. Badly.

The scandal -- and the real damage here -- is the great lengths to which the Vatican and many Catholics are going in order to defend the indefensible. These people are, frankly, resorting to the elevation of bureaucratic arcana to holy writ to do this. Sometimes, even sheer sophistry.

That is making the Church look like hell. It is a PR nightmare, because it damned well should be.

And it's, effectively, an anti-witness by an institution that, right now, is acting in an anti-Christ manner in all this.

It is denying Christ (as did Peter way back when), it is effectively denying the worth of "the little ones" Christ so loved, and it is harming Catholics' faith, thereby endangering their salvation.

It has to f***ing stop.

It requires confession and penance, not the kinds of lame excuses for sin that Father would have none of if it were you or me.