The Associated Press is claiming that the former Cardinal Ratzinger was implicated in a decision to delay defrocking a paedophile priest. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But, as with all the media attempts to “get” Pope Benedict XVI, the story turns out to be a bit more complicated than the headlines imply. Fr Stephen Kiesle committed his disgusting crimes in the 1970s, the Diocese of Oakland withdrew him from priestly ministry and he asked to be laicised, a complicated canonical procedure. In 1985 Ratzinger signed a letter (in Latin) urging caution but then did give permission for the defrocking, which happened in 1987.
Probably the delay was a bad decision; but it was as a lay worker that Kiesle later volunteered for youth ministry – and seems to have got away with it, thanks to the diocese, not the CDF. We don’t really know the full details, but it’s pretty clear to me that, as with The New York Times’s dodgy Wisconsin story, the shocking negligence of the Church authorities can’t easily be laid at the door of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who did not take over direct responsibility for sex cases until 2001. And, indeed, no one would be trying to do so if he hadn’t later become Pope.
Meanwhile, as I pointed out the other day, a genuine sex and corruption scandal is engulfing the Vatican, as it becomes clear that senior Cardinals and curial officials accepted money from the creepy Legionaries of Christ. But there’s a problem: as in the case of the pervert Cardinal Groer, Joseph Ratzinger is untainted by the scandal. So no big deal, eh? All that matters to various media outlets is that they beat the opposition to The Story That Brings Down The Pope. And if it doesn’t exist? “Of course it exists!” scream certain editors.
None of this Ratzinger-baiting helps the victims of clerical abuse. In fact, it has helped one or two sleazebag prelates pass the buck. I despair.