A Reader Responds: Marie on Ratzinger and Kiestle

In a lengthy response to my earlier post “The Buck Stops …..Way Over There”, a reader (“Marie”) has posted a comment taken from a Reuters report which provides an account of the Vatican explanation. As I do not believe that a comments thread is the right place for lengthy pieces, I have instead copied it here.

The thrust of the defence appears to be that it is wrong to treat this as protecting a child molester, as the case concerned a simple request to leave the priesthood. The Vatican claims that it is this that was “scandalous”, and was resisted. I don’t think the facts are in dispute how – just the interpretation. I fail to see why a request from a convicted child molester to leave the priesthood is somehow more “scandalous” to the reputation on the church than a decision to leave him in he priesthood, where he cold conceivably do more harm, against his wishes and the judgement of his local bishop. The Vatican has once again missed the point entirely: the issue here is not about disciplining a priest, nor is it about the supposed scandal of a man wishing to leave the priesthood. The fundamental point, which is entirely missing in both Ratzinger’s letter of 1985 and the current “defence”, should have been that of the safety of the children.  It  now becomes clearer than ever that this safety has never been the first concern of the Vatican as in institution, nor of Joseph Ratzinger the man.

This is Marie’s contribution:

A new report by Reuters says that this Ratzinger letter was in response to a simple request by Keisle to leave the priesthood.

A request to leave the priesthood is a scandal, yes, especially coming from a 38-year-old priest, and therefore the recommendation that the priest be given “paternal care” while the case is pending.

The Buck Stops…….. Way Over There

Writing about the revelations from California of Cardinal Ratzinger’s reluctance to remove from the priesthood a convicted child molester Andrew Sullivan observed that

The Pope cannot blame the local bishops this time – they desperately tried to get the priest fired.

You’d have thought so, wouldn’t you? But Sullivan has grievously underestimated the Vatican’s capacity for denial and shifting the blame. As it was so vividly put in Mark Fiore’s fun video cartoon ,

"The Buck Stops .... Way Over There."

Benedict’s acolytes have indeed contrived to blame the local bishops, as they are said to have borne the primary responsibility for “disciplining” wayward clergy. (This blithely ignores that this was NOT a request for discipline, but an attempt to protect children from future harm. )

From the LA Times:

The Vatican insisted Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI had done nothing wrong when, earlier in his career, he hesitated to defrock a California priest who had admitted to molesting two boys.

A Vatican lawyer said that it was the local bishop, John Cummins of Oakland, who bore primary responsibility for protecting children from the abusive priest, Stephen Kiesle, and that the pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had acted appropriately when he declined to take immediate action.

“It’s the job of the bishop to discipline the priest,” said the lawyer, Jeffrey S. Lena of Berkeley, in an e-mail to The Times. “The pope is not a five star general ordering his troops around. That is simply an incorrect idea about the allocation of authority as between the pope and his fellow bishops.”

(Read the full report)

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Is the Vatican Truly an Independent State?

With extraordinary synchronicity I had just proposed in my last post, which I had not yet even published, that we should seriously question the Vatican’s claims to be treated as an independent state, when I saw an opinion piece in the LA Times on exactly the same topic.

The problem with the Vatican’s present status as a “state” is not just that is a quirky little oddity, an peculiar little legacy of the historical interrelationship between it and the rest of Italy, nor is it even that it leaves the Vatican beyond the legal reach of any external authority. No, it is worse.  There are other tiny states (not quite so small) which are truly independent, and are not a problem to anyone. The real issue is that the Vatican’s claims are so one-sided:  while their insistence on independent status excludes any other state from interfering in their internal affairs, they do not respect the balancing principle. Through their army of clerical staff, all under  direct or indirect Vatican control, they are constantly busying themselves with the affairs of the entire world. They dictate moral rules to individual citizens, and they regularly attempt to influence the political process – as is seen most dramatically on abortion, marriage equality and gay adoption.

Is This An Independent State?

It is not right that they should be allowed to get away with these double standards. Which major country will be the first to withdraw recognition of the Vatican “state”?

From the LA Times:

Consequences of the Catholic Church’s claim of statehood

The practice of treating the Catholic Church as a state has been bad for women’s equality and gay rights. Now, the unfolding sexual abuse scandal reveals another dark side of the Holy See’s status.

What More Can Be Said? What’s To Do?

In the wake of the latest revelation of Benedict’s role in resisting the defrocking of a convicted Californian paedophile, I struggle to find anything fresh to say – it’s all been said before, here at QTC, and elsewhere. We need now to move beyond the obvious lamentations and finer pointing, and even pointing  out how the Church must change. What we need now, is serious discussions on how we might bring about the change. How, in the face of institutional denial and inaction, can we achieve the resurrection for the Church that we so urgently need and desire?

But first, just to remind ourselves of the magnitude of the task and its parameters, I present without elaboration the conclusions I have reached while researching and writing about the topic, conclusions that I now take as established.

UK Cover-Up

With reports of abuse cover-ups spreading around the world, the English Church has recently boasted of having scandal by putting in place clear, tough directives on dealing promptly and correctly with all complaints. A new reportfrom The Times suggests it is not quite so simple: it seems that there was just such a cover-up, and quite recently – with one of the bishops implicated as the current head of the church in Emgland & Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

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