Friday, April 09, 2010

A puzzle:

The lastest news on the Catholic molestation story is about a priest in California and a letter the now-Pope Benedict wrote. But there's something odd about the report. From the story, a rearrangement of elements to make clear the chronology: (emp add)
[Rev. Stephen Kiesle] had been sentenced in 1978 to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.

As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him.

The diocese recommended removing Kiesle (KEEZ'-lee) from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office that shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.

The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. It was two more years before Kiesle was removed; during that time he continued to do volunteer work with children through the church.

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle were of "grave significance" but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with "as much paternal care as possible" while awaiting the decision ...

The future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" ...
If the priest wanted out, and the diocese agreed, then why wait at all?

This is not a case of a priest being sheltered by the Catholic church at the priest's request.

So why did it unfold the way it did?

I don't know much about the Catholic church, but this sure looks like a case of theology dictating action. I'm guessing that priests are deemed to be in some sort of sacred bondage with God, and that puts them into a different category from everybody else. In addition, the priest is part of the collective and can't be tossed out summarily without, somehow, injuring the church.

An organization that works according to that principle will find itself repeatedly in trouble, at least to most observers. The Catholic church will be seen as acting slowly to dismiss priests who do all manner of illegal or unsavory acts.

Although I wonder if priests that supported "liberation theology" were defrocked in a similar (i.e. slow) manner. Is the Catholic church evenhanded when it comes to expulsion for different acts?


I wonder whether Ratzinger was concerned the priest, even if voluntarily defrocked, might become someone who was a loud penitent and therefore support efforts to expose the wider scandalous and criminal behavior of priests against children.

By Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman, at 4/10/2010 7:58 AM  

Another post gleaming with your special style of asking questions nobody else asks.

That's why I return.

By Blogger Emphyrio, at 4/10/2010 12:06 PM  

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