– In August of 1978, Fr. Stephen Kiesle of the Diocese of Oakland pleaded “no contest” to a charge of lewd conduct “for tying up and molesting two boys.” There were actually (at least) six victims, ranging in age from 11 to 13.
– In July of 1981, Kiesle petitioned (under pressure from his Bishop?) to be removed from the priesthood, and the Bishop forwarded the petition to Rome, where it was handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger.
– While the case was pending – with Ratzinger’s office repeatedly sending it back with demands for more information and at one point saying that it had lost the file and needed to have the whole case resubmitted – Kiesel was “volunteering” as the youth ministry co-ordinator in an Oakland parish. The bishop continued to agitate for action.
– In 1987, Kiesel was finally laicized. He was subsequently convicted again (with some additional charges barred by the statute of limitations) and did prison time.
Here’s the full text (translated from the Latin) of a letter to the Bishop from Cardinal Ratzinger written in November of 1985:
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
As to Fr. Kiesle’s “young age”: at the time of the letter, he was 38 years old. Some of his victims were young children, male and female (he molested one girl three times before she reached the age of seven), which makes nonsense of the attempts by the Pope and his flacks to try to make the issue homosexuality rather than child molestation.
More documents here. It appears that Ratzinger saw this as an attempt by Kiesle to free himself from his vows, rather an attempt by the Diocese to rid itself of a child molester. Back then the Church was suffering an outflow of priests, especially younger ones. Ratzinger might well have been worried that granting one petition for laicization might lead to more such petitions. What’s the Latin for “stop-loss order”? Or maybe it was just his basic bully’s temper at work; Kiesle wanted something, and Ratzinger had the power to deny it.
If there’s a God in Heaven (which seems doubtful) this will help bring down the “Universal Church.” Cleansing the mess John Paul II left behind him would require the diversion of a navigable river; the Tiber, as I recall, is conveniently located. In the meantime, can we at least stop paying attention to the views of this rather creepy elderly authoritarian and his co-conspirators about sexual ethics?