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Card. Ratzinger’s Cover-up for Fr. Kiesle

Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.

Two different newspapers in my area recently featured the story of abuser priest Stephen Kiesle. A now defrocked priest who served in the East Bay of California, Fr. Kiesle had a long tract record of sexual abuse of youth, resulting in multi-million dollar payouts by the Oakland Diocese. The lawyer for one of Kiesle's victims stated, "Of all the perpetrators I met, which were probably a couple dozen, he was the most evil, remorseless sociopath of them all, just a terrible human being." (1)

Fr Stephen Kiesle

Different reports on the cover-up for Fr. Kiesle
The first news story is from the secular Contra Costa Times, dated April 10, 2010. It presents a critical review of the case, which spotlights Pope Benedict for delaying the removal of Fr. Kiesle from the priesthood, resulting in Benedict's complicity in Kiesle's crimes.

The second coverage, an obvious retort to the Times article, is in the Oakland’s diocesan weekly, The Catholic Voice, dated April 26. The byline is by Oakland Diocese Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, who steps on stage to defend the Pope, clearly attempting to condone Benedict's inertia in the Kiesle case.

His cant makes no comment whatsoever on the infamous acts of Kiesle. To the contrary, his commentary glosses Kiesle’s history from the time he was ordained as an Oakland diocesan priest in 1972 until his laicization in 1987. Cordileone's account seems more intent, in fact, on lifting all wrongdoing from Ratzinger, offering information like an eleventh-hour sensational piece of evidence at jury trials, rather than admitting the horror of the priest’s crimes.

Both stories present the basic fact that Kiesle was arrested in 1978 for molesting boys. However, the tones differ. Bishop Cordileone's comment on the sex abuse is antiseptic: "Kiesle was arrested for lewd conduct with minors." The Times is more specific: The arrest was for Kiesle "tying up and molesting two preteen boys in the rectory of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City." Both commentaries make it clear that Kiesle's arrest ignited a warning signal to Kiesle's Bishop John Cummins. From this point on, however, the facts are muddled in the diocesan report.

More than nine years of covering-up …

What happened is this: Cummins removed Kiesle from active ministry after his arrest in 1978, and placed him on "an extended leave of absence for the next three years," where he attended counseling sessions and reported regularly to his probation officer. But it was not until 1981 – three years after the arrest – that the Bishop sent Kiesle's file to Rome, asking that he be defrocked and announcing that Kiesle himself had requested it. This means that both Bishop Cummins and Kiesle knew that innocent boys were in harms way. It is also an easy deduction that the "counseling" for Kiesle was not successful.

Bishop John Cumminss

Bishop Cummins waited three years to send Kiesle's file to Rome
Again in 1982 Bishop Cummins wrote Card. Ratzinger pleading for the defrocking to avoid "scandal." Subsequently three more letters were sent to the Cardinal to check on the status of the Kiesle case. Ratzinger remained silent through the years. However a Vatican official wrote to say the file might have been lost and suggested the materials be resubmitted. Finally in 1985 Ratzinger sent the now famous (or infamous) letter with the decision to delay the defrocking. Only in 1987 Kiesle was defrocked.

It is not difficult to do the math. For three years (1978-1981) Bishop Cummins covered for the criminal. For six years (1981-1987) Card. Ratzinger delayed a decision to defrock a priest who had already been convicted of pedophilia. This deferment of nine years is expressive of the complicity of Church’s Prelates in sexual abuse of children.

It was subsequently determined that Kiesle had been actively abusing youths years before the 1978 arrest. The Times article reports that the priest was later "arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molesting, 11 of them stemming from his time at Our Lady of the Rosary, and before that at St. Joseph in Pinole and Santa Paula in Fremont." Note that his arrest in 1978 occurred when he was a priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City. But he was arrested for sexually abusing boys at St. Joseph's in Pinole and Santa Paula in Fremont in the mid-1970s. After his conviction he was sent back to St. Joseph's in 1985 to serve as a youth minister.

Nothing is mentioned in Bishop Cordileone's report about the criminal history of Kiesle during this period. Since Kiesle was a sexual predator before his arrest in 1978, the question goes begging as to how he could have been operating during these years without anyone knowing about it.

It doesn't take a super-sleuth to construct a scenario as to what happened. His sexual predations in the mid-1970s had to be based on records of his attacks. Kiesle's arrest for 13 counts of child molesting means there were victims and reliable records available in the police records. Didn’t the Bishop know about that bad behavior before his conviction?

Kiesle was convicted on only two out of the 13 counts of the cases because the statute of limitations prevented him from being charged in the other eleven cases. This would not have happened if, before the 1978 arrest, the Oakland Chancery personnel would have investigated Kiesle at his former parishes and punished him. With the lives of innocent boys at stake, this would have been a moral and legal obligation. This sexual maniac could have been exposed at the beginning of his crimes.

Cordileone’s weak defense of Ratzinger

Salvatore Cordileone
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Cordileone contrives excuses for a complicit Ratzinger
One of Bishop Cordileone’s arguments to clear Card. Ratzinger was to say that he was just following a rule made by John Paul II, according to which priests could not be defrocked before 40 year of age. Since Kiesle was only 38 at the time Cordileone avers that Ratzinger was following JPII's "provision," it was only two years later that Kiesle was laicized.

The excuse really is lame. Common sense tells us that this rule should never have been applied to priests who were admitted perverts. The burning question is this: How many lives of boys did Kiesle ruin between the mid-1970s and his laicization in 1987?

The second defense contrived by Bishop Cordileone: The 1985 letter by Ratzinger was nothing more than a pro forma letter "that would be sent out for any case of a priest under 40 years." The implication here is that his letter was a bureaucratic formality. But this pretext is not true. The 1985 letter by Ratzinger is precise and articulate, referring specifically to the "grave significance” (of Kiesle's sexual abuse). Nonetheless, it clearly states, “regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Fr. Stephen Kiesle ... (this matter) necessitates a longer period of time."

The "matter" at hand is a convicted child molester of innocent boys by a hopelessly maniac priest. It is impossible to reconcile the Ratzinger letter with not giving the boot to Kiesle, "a remorseless sociopath." Instead, Kiesle was kept aboard in the very Diocese in which he was committing his crimes.

With each new disturbing news about the revolution in the Church starting at the top, it becomes easier and easier to appreciate the warning of Sister Lucy about a "diabolical disorientation" in the Church. The disorientation becomes each day more disastrous. May Our Lady protect us from this progressivist behemoth that is savaging the Bride of Christ.
1. Contra Costa Times, April 10, 2010, p. A9.
Posted May 14, 2010

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