Pope did not impede defrocking of priest: Vatican

By Silvia Aloisi

VATICAN CITY (BestGrowthStock) – The Vatican Saturday defended Pope Benedict from accusations that, in a previous post as a high Vatican official, he tried to impede the defrocking of a California priest who had sexually abused children.

In a statement, a Vatican lawyer accused the media of a “rush to judgment.”

In a 1985 letter, typed in Latin and translated for The Associated Press, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the bishop of Oakland he needed more time “to consider the good of the Universal Church” as he reviewed a request to remove the priest.

California-based Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said he could not confirm the authenticity of the letter but indicated that it appeared to be “a form letter typically sent out initially with respect to laicization cases,” when men ask to leave the priesthood.

The letter surfaced as the Vatican fights accusations that the pope mishandled cases of abuse when he was a bishop in Germany and a Vatican official before his election in 2005.

Lena “denied that the letter reflected then-Cardinal Ratzinger resisting pleas from the bishop to defrock the priest,” the statement said.

“There may be some overstep and rush to judgment going on here,” Lena said.

“During the entire course of the proceeding the priest remained under the control, authority and care of the local bishop who was responsible to make sure he did no harm, as the canon (Church) law provides. The abuse case wasn’t transferred to the Vatican at all,” he said.

Ratzinger wrote in the letter that arguments to remove the priest were of “grave significance” but also worried about what “granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.”

According to The Associated Press, which first reported the story Friday, the Rev. Stephen Miller Kiesle was 38 at the time and had been sentenced in 1978 to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a church rectory.

According to a letter from the Diocese of Oakland to Ratzinger in 1981, Kiesle had asked to leave the active ministry and the diocese asked Ratzinger to agree that he be “relieved of all the obligations of the priesthood, including celibacy.”

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(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Myra MacDonald)

Pope did not impede defrocking of priest: Vatican