Pope urged caution in case of California priest accused of molestation [Text]
In his earlier role as enforcer of Roman Catholic Church doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI, when asked to defrock a California priest accused of child sexual abuse in 1985, said he needed more time to consider the impact of the case on “the good of the Universal Church,” according to records released Friday. Following is the text of a November 1985 letter in Latin signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Oakland Bishop John S. Cummins. It was translated for The Associated Press by Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.
Most Excellent Bishop Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Rev. Stephen Miller Kiesle in your diocese, it is my duty to share with you the following:
This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.
It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time. In the meantime your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible and in addition to explain to same the rationale of this court, which is accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes.
Let me take this occasion to convey sentiments of the highest regard always to you.
Your most Reverend Excellency Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Photo: The signature of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the bottom of the letter. Credit: Kim Johnson / Associated Press