In response to the suggestion of an AP story on former Californian priest Stephen Kiesle that Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the early 1980s somehow blocked appropriate punishment of a priest convicted of abusing minors, Vatican officials have now spoken on the facts of the case.

Vatican officials pointed out that Cardinal Ratzinger was responding to the priest’s own request for dispensation from the vow of celibacy, and at the time had no authority to impose dismissal from the priesthood as a penalty for sex abuse.

Jeffrey Lena, a California lawyer for the Vatican, said the AP article reflected a “rush to judgment” and presumed — incorrectly — that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office had control over clerical sex abuse cases.

“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 law provides,” Lena said. “The abuse case wasn’t transferred to the Vatican at all.”

Other Vatican experts quoted in this Catholic News Service report confirm and amplify comments on the case covered in a previous post — particularly that the “good of the universal Church” cited by Cardianl Ratzinger as a reason for delaying the dispensation concerned a crisis of such applications and a change of policy towards them on the part of Pope John Paul II.



Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet