Despite the efforts of the Vatican to deflect criticism away from Pope Benedict XVI on his involvement in child abuse scandals, reports continue to tie him to the past decisions. The most recent is the discovery of a 1985 letter with the signature of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger resisting the defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, a California priest with a long history of sexual molestation of children.
The Pope blocked the effort for “the good of the universal church,” a reference that seems to track earlier letters placing secrecy for the Church above the security of the children.
The Pope was previously implicated in a Wisconsin case, here.
The most recent letter is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about Kiesle.
In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of “grave significance” but insisted, after years of correspondence, that the matter needed for consideration and “as much paternal care as possible.” Notably, the future Pope said that they had to consider 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 ultimately received 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. In 1981, at the end of his probationary period, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood.
The U.S. Cardinal supported the petition. It would seem to be rather good news to the Vatican, which should have defrocked the molester years before. The American diocese wrote to Ratzinger three times asking for action. They were clearly alarmed by not just the delay but Ratzinger’s suggestions that Kiesle’s departure could harm rather than help the church.
Kiesle was allowed to return as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, where he had served as associate pastor from 1972 to 1975.
In 2002, Kiesle was charged with 13 counts of child molestation from the 1970s. After a successful appeal, 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.
Kiesle is now 63 and a registered sex offender, lives in a Walnut Creek gated community.
Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims stated that not only did he admit to molesting children but “[w]hen asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said ‘tons.'”
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