Pope Benedict "expressed concern" at defrocking California priest over molestation

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Washington, Apr 10(ANI): Newly surfaced public documents have revealed that the current Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was reluctant in the 1980s to defrock a California priest sentenced to probation for molesting young boys.

Letters over a five-year span between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican, including a 1985 letter signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have come to light at a time when Benedict's involvement in sex abuse cases in the United States and Europe has been under intense scrutiny.

According to the documents, the Oakland Diocese had proposed defrocking Rev. Stephen Kiesle, but Benedict expressed concern that laicising Kiesle "could provoke some scandal among the faithful".

They also revealed that the diocesan officials had appealed to the Vatican to remove Kiesle as a priest, as he had received three years' probation in 1978 for pleading no contest to charges of molesting two boys, The Washington Post reports.

However, in response, Ratzinger said that Rome needed more time to review the case before making a decision of such "grave significance".

He urged then-Bishop John Cummins to provide Kiesle with "as much paternal care as possible" while awaiting the decision.

Ratzinger also said 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 remained a priest till 1987, but a current diocesan spokesman, Mike Brown, said that as per the available records, Kiesle was "relieved of all duties" after the 1978 charge. (ANI)

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