Pope willing to meet with abuse victims

The BBC reports that the Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI is willing to hold new meetings with victims of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

If he does, this could signal a new approach in handling the unfolding crisis, especially since reporters are finding more and more documentation that the future Pope’s apparent knowledge of many cases around the world.

The BBC says:

In the past, the Pope has met victims of abuse at the Vatican and on trips to the US and Australia.

The Catholic Church has been shaken recently as allegations of abuse have emerged across Europe.

The allegations, many of which date back decades, have put pressure on the Church in countries including the Pope’s native Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria.

“The Pope has written that he is available for new meetings” with victims, Fr Lombardi said on Friday.

“Apart from the attention we must pay to the victims, we must pursue co-operation with the relevant civilian judicial and penal authorities, in line with the legal and other situations in each country,” he said.

“Transparency and rigour impose themselves as urgent requirements.”

[Here are pictures from the last such meeting.]

Meanwhile, more reports just keep rolling in. This comes from the Ruth Gledhill and the Times of London.

The AP reports that the future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican’s insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

The Vatican refused to comment on the contents of the letter Friday, but a spokesman confirmed it bore Ratzinger’s signature.

“The press office doesn’t believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature.”

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

Here is the AP report in full.

Here is the AP’s timeline of events in this case:

— July 1981: Oakland Bishop John Cummins sends Kiesle’s file to the Vatican in support of the priest’s petition for laicization.

— November 1981: Vatican asks for more information.

— 1982: Kiesle moves to Pinole.

— February 1982: Cummins writes to Ratzinger providing additional information and warning of possible scandal if Kiesle is not defrocked.

— September 1982: Oakland diocese official writes Ratzinger asking for update.

— September 1983: Cummins visits Rome, discusses Kiesle case with Vatican officials.

— December 1983: Vatican official writes Oakland to say Kiesle’s file can’t be found and they should resubmit materials.

— January 1984: Cummins writes a Vatican official to inquire about status of Kiesle file.

— 1985: Kiesle volunteers as a youth minister at St. Joseph’s Church in Pinole.

— September 1985: Cummins writes Ratzinger asking about status of Kiesle case.

— November 1985: Ratzinger writes to Cummins about Kiesle case.

— December 1985: A memo from diocese officials discusses writing to Ratzinger again to stress the risk of scandal if Kiesle’s case is delayed.

— 1987: Kiesle is defrocked.

— 2002: Kiesle is arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molestation; all but two are thrown out after U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidates a California law extending statute of limitations.

— 2004: Kiesle pleads no contest to felony charge of molesting a young girl in 1995 at his Truckee vacation home.

— 2004: He is sentenced to six years in prison for the 1995 molestation.

— 2010: Registered as a sex offender living in Walnut Creek.

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