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AP obtains document signed by Pope, postponing decision on defrocking abusive priest

April 09, 2010

The Associated Press has unearthed a 1985 document in which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explains his reluctance to grant a quick laicization to a California priest who was accused of molesting children.

In his letter to Bishop John Cummins of Oakland, the future Pontiff cites "the good of the universal Church" as reason to avoid rushing to approve the request of Father Stephen Kiesle to be laicized. The request was ultimately approved two years later.

The AP story provides no context for the decision by Cardinal Ratzinger to postpone a final judgment on the Kiesle case. The wire-service story claims, however, that the Pope was stalling on a request to defrock the priest. Kiesle-- who made the request for laicization himself-- was apparently not functioning as an active minister at the time of the 1985 letter.

The Vatican has refused to comment on the case, beyond confirming that Cardinal Ratzinger's signature on the document obtained by AP is genuine.


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  • Posted by: Gaudete802 - Apr. 12, 2010 9:00 AM ET USA

    Why don't they release the Latin text if they've got this letter? Why was this bishop writing Card Ratzinger when the Congregation for the Clergy would handle all such matters until 2001? What really is the reply of the cardinal and what is the context for these phrases lifted from a whole document? Again I think this may very well be another purposeful miss-interpretation to defame the Holy Father and declare his guilty without evidence.

  • Posted by: Salome - Apr. 10, 2010 12:04 AM ET USA

    Would a canonist please explain the benefits to a priest of being laicized when he asks for it? I'd have thought it would be an improvement on being a priest still under the control of the bishop but suspended from any active ministry. And didn't Pope John Paul II oppose the idea of laicization generally?

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 09, 2010 5:35 PM ET USA

    Can anyone seriously believe that the press isn't intent on bringing down the papacy?