The media simply cannot stop viciously attacking the Pope, even if it makes them look like ignorant buffoons at best and anti-Catholic bigots at worst. The latest example of the drive-by smear against Pope Benedict XVI, laced with false and disingenuous reporting, comes to us courtesy of the Associated Press.
Let’s examine this story carefully in order to amaze ourselves at just how deep in the gutter main stream journalism can go.
LOS ANGELES — 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.
First of all, the Catholic Church does not “defrock” its priests. It laicizes them. This might appear to be a minor point, but it is not since it strikes at the extreme ignorance of reporters who presume to “convict” the Church’s ministers without even a cursory understanding of the Church’s sacramental theology, ecclesiology or canon law. Laicization necessarily involves removing the right of a priest to exercise the functions of a priest, most notably celebrating Mass or forgiving sins in a confessional. Defrockation merely means to deprive someone of an honorary position. The two terms have been somewhat confused lately and are used interchangeably in modern parlance, but technically speaking it is a big point – a point which is very important to understand in this concocted scandal.
Secondly, Pope Benedict XVI did not “resist pleas to defrock” the priest in question at all. This is not born out by the evidence, but rather represents a malicious interpretation of the events which can hardly be sustained by the facts. Indeed, just like with the New York Times’ allegation against the Vatican (and by implication then-Cardinal Ratzinger) for “stopping the trial” of Fr. Murphy, the exact opposite is true here as well. These days, the facts seem to be even less important to the liberal press than it has ever been in the past. They are so immersed in their own tongue bath of salacious reporting against the Pope, they have forgotten that fair-minded people expect them to have a minimum respect for the truth.
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.
Well, we don’t have the correspondence ourselves so we are not permitted to make our own judgements on its contents. Why doesn’t the Associated Press share it with us? Maybe they are afraid of what happened to the New York Times who linked their story to the actual documents in the Murphy case. That was a big mistake. When bloggers and other news organizations actually read those documents, a different picture became evident.
It’s almost laughable, really. This report represents the “strongest challenge to the Vatican’s insistence that Benedict played no roll in blocking the removal of pedophile priests“? Did I just read that right? Good grief. Not only is that claim a joke, but it’s very clear that not only did Benedict play no roll in blocking anything, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for expediting the expulsion of this filth from the Church, as his record in this role makes very clear.
But let’s get to the details of the Associated Press charges…because that is where this fraudulent report buries them…
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 refused to comment on the contents of the letter Friday, but a spokesman confirmed it bore 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. “It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature.” The diocese recommended removing Kiesle (KEEZ’-lee) from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office which shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.
Actually, that’s a whopping error right there. I’d ask for the reporter to retract the statement, but since these people have little journalistic integrity and even less journalistic ability to check even the most basic facts, what precisely is the point? I will simply point out the error for the benefit of my readers. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in November, 1981. The CDF deals primarily with doctrinal issues in the Church. It did not (and generally does not) concern itself with pastoral matters involving immoral priests. When Ratzinger became convinced of the widespread problem of child abuse in the Church, he realized soon after that he had to take on the responsibility of cleaning it up. That’s why he volunteered his Congregation to take on this jurisdiction in 2001 – 20 years after the reporter’s claim.
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.
Uh huh. And what evidence precisely does the Associated Press have to suggest that Cardinal Ratzinger was made aware of this case in 1981? They have a letter signed by him in 1985. That’s it. There’s no evidence to suggest he sat on it for “years” or was even aware of it at all, as the Associated Press fraudulently implies. The holes in the baseless and comical innuendo that the AP report wants to spread is so large, you can drive a MACK truck right through it. This isn’t the product of quality journalism. It’s National Enquirer stuff that belongs with Elvis’ comeback and the latest Nostradamus predictions.
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.
First of all – and this is very important for everyone to understand – the process of laicization concerns the faculties of a priest. It does not concern whether a priest may stay in active ministry. The press sloppily assumes that both of these functions are necessarily tied together or are even the same thing. They are most certainly not. And this represents yet another blunderous assumption which completely sinks their case. The abuse of children is a question of the active ministry of the priest which Cardinal Ratzinger did not have jurisdiction over. That belongs to the local bishop. Contrary to popular myth, the Catholic Church is not some huge centralized bureauracry with Rome micromanaging every decision, nor are the bishops mere altar boys. The Catholic Church operates under the principle of subsidiarity. Cardinal Ratzinger’s job in this case was to grant or deny the request of the removal of the priestly faculties which is a separate question entirely from the question of active ministry. And active ministry is what is relevant to the abuse of children — not laicization. In other words, Benedict is being blamed for a crime committed in a pastoral jurisdiction (i.e. the active ministry of a priest) which he is not even responsible for! To be clear: Bishop Cummins had the authority and the responsibility to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.
Secondly, as Catholic Culture.org notes in their report, “this was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican– which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s — wanted to consider all such cases carefully.” Too many priests were abandoning ship prematurely and the Vatican put the breaks on this after the ’70s when it granted relatively quicker laicizations. Laicization can take over 5 years in most cases, so a two year period (from 1985 to the time that Kiesle was laicized in 1987) is a comparatively short time frame.
Thirdly, there is a certain “disconnect” between the comments in the letter and how relatively quickly the laicization happened. The letter talks about “paternal care” and the “good of the Church” and then within a short period of time, the priest’s case is taken up and he is booted from the Church. By all appearances, this letter was the standard “form” letter that Ratzinger might sign, acknowledging receipt of the request, and a response to consider all parties involved, and to act with due consideration for the Church. This is hardly a smoking gun but rather “churchspeak” for “we’ll get to your case when we can.” From the evidence, once they saw the true gravity of the issue, they acted relatively quickly.
And here is something else of interest concerning the much touted “paternal care” line:
“A final, minor but significant point of translation. The translation being used by the media of an important part of Ratzinger’s letter is: “your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible”. This has been rightly interpreted by some to mean that Ratzinger was saying that the bishop should keep a watchful eye on the priest. The original Latin makes that even clearer: “paterna…cura sequi” which means “to follow with paternal care”. We get the word “persecute” from the Latin “per-sequi”. “Sequi” is much stronger then “provide”. (Source)
Readers who are familiar with the media reporting on this article will immediately recognize that the phrase “as much paternal care as possible” has been used to imply that the Pope seemed a little too concerned with the welfare of a child abuser. The true meaning, of course, suggests the opposite. But this just goes to show you what happens when hick journalists “do” Latin.
Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to 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.
Three years probation, eh? Where is the Press outrage with this court decision? He doesn’t even serve time. And yet the Press wants Benedict’s head for his Congregation’s examination of the case over a two-year period (lightning fast by Rome’s standards) of examining the evidence, going through a trial or process, and removing Keisle from the priesthood, all of which do not touch upon the relevant issue of his active ministry. Do I have that right? At least the Catholic Church booted Kiesle. The State of California gently slapped him on the wrist. The double standards of press outrage are quite revealing.
As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him. In his earliest letter to Ratzinger, Cummins warned that returning Kiesle to ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers.
There is some question whether Cummins actually wrote to Ratzinger specifically. More on this later.
“It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry,” Cummins wrote in 1982.
There is nothing prohibiting the bishop from removing Kiesle from active ministry. He doesn’t need laicization for that. Cummins’s point is merely to state that if Keisle is not laicized, then he would have to keep him indefinitely out of active ministry, considering the gravity of the issue. In other words, Cummins is trying to put the best argument in favour of formal laicization. He is not seeking permission to prohibit Kiesle from active ministry.
While papers obtained by the AP include only one letter with Ratzinger’s signature, correspondence and internal memos from the diocese refer to a letter dated Nov. 17, 1981, from the then-cardinal to the bishop. Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a week later.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was only appointed to head the CDF on November 25, 1981. Before that, he was the Archbishop of Munich. How is it possible that, according to the Associated Press, Cardinal Ratzinger was fully immersed in this case, and writing letters to some obscure California bishop, one week before he was installed as Prefect of the CDF? There is some major contradiction here that needs to be cleared up.
Sure enough. Another news source has confirmed my suspicion above that indeed it was not Cardinal Ratzinger who received the Cummins’s letter on November 17, 1981 but another Cardinal altogether. In fact, Ratzinger did not actually take office until February 1982 (emphasis mine):
Neither the AP nor the NYT article mentions the fact that the first letters sent by Fr. Kiesle’s pastor (April 25, 1981) and Bishop Cummins (May 8, 1981) were addressed not to Cardinal Ratzinger but to Franjo Cardinal Seper, Ratzinger’s predecessor as Prefect of the CDF. (Two of the internal memos from the Oakland diocese say that Ratzinger wrote the November 17, 1981 letter, but this is obviously incorrect, and must be due to a failure of memory on the part of the bishop.) The letter has Seper’s signature on it.) Ratzinger did not take office until February 1982. A reply came from Cardinal Seper on November 17, 1981. He requested more information, among other things asking the bishop “not to neglect to send together with the records your votum (vow, solemn statement) on not fearing scandal.” It is obvious from the way that this is put that this is a declaration that the bishop was required to make as part of canon law, and – note carefully – would be required for ALL requests for laicization. In it, the bishop declares that releasing this priest from his ministry and vow of celibacy would not create scandal. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that this particular case involved sexual abuse of a minor. It doesn’t necessarily mean that either Seper or Ratzinger feared scandal because such abuse was involved. Of course, neither the AP nor the New York Times thought to make this clear, probably because of a complete lack of understanding of canon law. Bishop Cummins forwarded the information, and on February 1, 1982, wrote to the new Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger with yet more details. There was no reply from Ratzinger’s office. The bishop wrote again on September 24, 1982, and received a reply on October 21 saying that no further information could be given at that time. Now (though neither the Times nor the AP mentions this) there is a three-year gap with no communications from the diocese of Oakland to the CDF; on September 13, 1985, Bishop Cummins again writes to Ratzinger (and mentions that his last communication was in September 1982). This time he got a more detailed reply. The fact that he received a reply may be due to the fact that unlike the previous times he actually forwarded it to the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. to be put in his diplomatic pouch. These letters would be more likely to be considered than the general flood of mail in the offices of the CDF. Here is my translation of Ratzinger’s reply – I had just about finished when I learned that the New York Times had provided one. However, I think mine is better; at least more idiomatic.
November 6, 1985
For the Doctrine of the Faith
Prot. No. 469/81a
Most Excellent Lord,
Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, about the case of the dispensation from all sacerdotal obligations which concerns Rev. Steven Miller KIESLE, of your diocese, it is my duty to communicate to you as follows. Although this Dicastery considers the reason cited for dispensation in the case being asked about to be of grave importance, it nevertheless judges it necessary to consider along with the good of the petitioner, the good of the Universal Church, and therefore it is unable to make light of the detriment that the granting of the dispensation may cause to the Christian community, attentive especially to the youth of the petitioner. It is fitting therefore, for this Congregation to subject this kind of case to a more careful examination, which necessarily requires a longer period of time. In the meantime, may Your Excellency not fail to attend to the petitioner as much as possible with paternal care, and in addition explaining to him the reason for acting of this Dicastery, which is habitually accustomed to proceed with an eye first of all to the common good. Having met with this fortuitous occasion, I attest to you my great esteem, remaining
Your Rev. Excellency’s most devoted(?) [add.mus]
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The most Excellent and Reverent Lord
John S. Cummins
Ordinary of Oakland
Indeed, any careful observer will quickly realize that no official can immerse themselves in a case before they are even installed. How could the AP reporter make such an elementary blunder as to assume that the letter was addressed to Cardinal Ratzinger? The question, of course, is not “how” but “why” would the Associated Press do so. And I think we all know the answer to that right now.
Oh, yes, and one more thing. Did you catch the part about there being a three-year gap with no communications from the diocese of Oakland to the CDF? The AP report neglects to mention this as well. I guess it doesn’t fit into their agenda of the Pope sitting on the file and “resisting pleas”. Too bad the Pope doesn’t sue, because there would be a huge settlement of libel if he did.
California church officials wrote to Ratzinger at least three times to check on the status of Kiesle’s case. At one point, a Vatican official wrote to say the file may have been lost and suggested resubmitting materials.
And what does that suggest? If a Vatican functionary responsible for the case doesn’t know where the documents are, how can anyone reasonably and arrogantly claim that Cardinal Ratzinger “resisted pleas” for laicization? The only evidence that we have that Ratzinger knew about the case is a 1985 letter. Period.
Diocese officials considered writing Ratzinger again after they received his 1985 response to impress upon him that leaving Kiesle in the ministry would harm the church, Rev. George Mockel wrote in a memo to the Oakland bishop. “My own reading of this letter is that basically they are going to sit on it until Steve gets quite a bit older,” the memo said. “Despite his young age, the particular and unique circumstances of this case would seem to make it a greater scandal if he were not laicized.”
Is that what happened? Did Rome wait for “Steve” to get “quite a bit older”? In my understanding, aging two years from 38-40 (the time Ratzinger took to “defrock” him) doesn’t really qualify as being “quite a bit older”.
Irwin Zalkin, an attorney representing some of the victims, said he was familiar with the correspondence but wouldn’t provide documents to AP. “Cardinal Ratzinger was more concerned about the avoidance of scandal than he was about protecting children,” Zalkin said in a phone interview. “That was a central theme.”
Ah yes, the concern for “the children”. I am sure that’s what motivates these lawyers.
As Kiesle’s fate was being weighed in Rome, the priest returned to suburban Pinole to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, where he had served as associate pastor from 1972 to 1975. Kiesle was ultimately stripped of his priestly powers in 1987, though the documents do not indicate when, how or why. They also don’t indicate what role — if any — Ratzinger had in the decision.
I see. So Ratzinger is responsible for the “delay” of two years. But he is not responsible for ultimate laicization of Kiesle. Gotcha. Presumably, if Ratzinger had denied the laicization, it would not have happened. But then again, let us not quibble with the facts.
Kiesle continued to volunteer with children, according to Maurine Behrend, who worked in the Oakland diocese’s youth ministry office in the 1980s. After learning of his history, Behrend complained to church officials. When nothing was done she wrote a letter, which she showed to the AP. “Obviously nothing has been done after EIGHT months of repeated notifications,” she wrote. “How are we supposed to have confidence in the system when nothing is done? A simple phone call to the pastor from the bishop is all it would take.” She eventually confronted Cummins at a confirmation and Kiesle was gone a short time later, Behrend said.
And whose responsibility was it to keep Kiesle out of active ministry? According to the Associated Press, it was Cardinal Ratzinger. The poor man has “George Bush syndrome”. If something goes wrong, it’s George Bush’s fault – past, present, or future.
Kiesle 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. Kiesle, now 63 and a registered sex offender, lives in a Walnut Creek gated community, according to his address listed on the Megan’s Law sex registry. An AP reporter was turned away when attempting to reach him for comment.
Too bad for the AP. He probably would have had a more sympathetic treatment than Pope Benedict has had from them.
William Gagen, an attorney who represented Kiesle in 2002, did not return a call for comment. More than a half-dozen victims reached a settlement in 2005 with the Oakland diocese alleging Kiesle had molested them as young children. “He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap,” said Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims who interviewed the former priest in prison. “When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said ‘tons.'” Cummins, the now-retired bishop, told the AP during an interview at his Oakland home that he “didn’t really care for” Kiesle, but he didn’t recall writing to Ratzinger concerning the case. “I wish I did write to Cardinal Ratzinger. I don’t think I was that smart,” Cummins, now 82, told AP.
Oh and Bishop Cummins? He’s a real piece of work too…
Several years ago a law was passed in California decriminalizing sodomy, with help from the Catholic Hierarchy. From San Diego News Notes: “From Bishop John Cummins’ own mouth came the startling revelation that the California Bishops ‘worked behind the scenes’ to pass the ‘consenting adults’ California Bill known as AB489 in 1975. He shared this information at a small gathering coordinated by Fr. Schexnayder’s homosexual outreach ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes parish on June 5. What AB489 did was to legalize ‘adulterous cohabitation, oral sex, and sodomy between consenting adults,’ according to an article in The Wanderer(6/23/99), authored by Mike Arata who lives in the Oakland Diocese. Bishop Cummins went to Sacramento in 1971 to lead the California Conference of Bishops at the State capital until he was appointed as Ordinary of Oakland in 1977” (“Heard Around the Diocese,” The Roman Catholic Witness, August, 1999; San Diego News Notes, October 1999. www.sdnewsnotes.com). (Source)
But let us not get sidetracked with these inconsequential indiscretions with Bishop Cummins. Ratzinger is who we’re after….
Documents obtained by the AP last week revealed similar instances of Vatican stalling in cases involving two Arizona clergy. In one case, the future pope took over the abuse case of the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood. In the second, the bishop called Msgr. Robert Trupia a “major risk factor” in a letter to Ratzinger. There is no indication in those files that Ratzinger responded. The Vatican has called the accusations “absolutely groundless” and said the facts were being misrepresented.
These accusations are indeed groundless and desperate. They are desperate because the Pope’s enemies in the Church (and in the Vatican) and outside of the Church don’t like the fact that when he came to the Papacy he largely laid down his academic pen and brought a big shovel. And he’s been shovelling deeper and deeper and cleaning out the rot. The Press and the lavendar mafia within the Church don’t like that, and that is why, my friends, all of these absurd attacks are happening…because the Church of God is being pruned and changed for the better. That’s why the devil and his lapdog press hate it. His head is being squeezed by Our Lady’s heel. He’s feeling discomfort and is lashing out wildly.
And thanks be to God that the devil finally has a reason to lash out.
God’s Holy rotweiller bites down hard, and he’s not letting go.
PRAYER FOR POPE BENEDICT XVI
Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shepherd, Benedict, a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he, as successor to the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ, build your Church into a sacrament of unity, love and peace for all the world. Amen.
V/ Let us pray for Benedict, the pope.
R/ May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and not hand him over
to the power of his enemies.
V/ May your hand be upon your holy servant.
R/ And upon your son, whom you have anointed.
Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…