In 1978, Fr. Stephen Kiesle, a teacher and priest at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Union City, pleased no contest for tying up and molesting two boys. Three years later, in 1981, Kiesle made a formal request to the Vatican to be allowed to leave the priesthood. Four years later, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to His Eminence John Cummins, Bishop of Oakland, requesting more time to consider the matter. Kiesle is not defrocked ... is reassigned to other parishes ... molests more boys ... Church officials do nothing ... Same old, same old.
Here is a photo of Ratzinger's letter:
And here is the full text of the letter, as translated for The Associated Press by Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.
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 RatzingerI repeat, then, the question I posed in my previous post on this topic: why is a corporation (in this case the Church) allowed to do business in a country (in this case America) whose laws it refuses to follow?A lawyer friend of mine, a devout Catholic, responded to the question:
I've been thinking about your post [...], and bottom-line for me is that I am a hardcore advocate for non-profit compliance with the law, chiefly because (a) non-profits enjoy a number of benefits under law (let's just call them perks) and (b) non-profits have extraordinarily important and sensitive work on their hands. That compliance should extend to people who act on behalf of the non-profit, whether with explicit, implicit or cloaked authority (i.e., any form of agency) and non-profits should be punished accordingly for failing to reign violations of law in.
Cue in the Roman Catholic Church (acting, in the United States, in the form of several non-profits). Like tons of other non-profits across the country, it is riddled with scandal. Unlike many non-profits, the Roman Catholic Church has not been the object of its fair share of prosecutions (whether in the form of organizational investigations resulting in regulatory action or actual criminal prosecutions of people acting with agency on behalf of the organization) chiefly because many state regulators just haven't sharpened the teeth – for whatever reason. Compounded with the lack of an extradition treaty with the Vatican (not like that will happen; the U.S. doesn't even have one with China), the fact that religion is involved, constitutional issues, and that people have very STRONG interests vested for/against the Roman Catholic Church, prosecuting the Roman Catholic Church seems like a big mess – particularly since religion is involved. Allegedly, the Massachusetts' Attorney General's inquiries into the allegations of abuse concerning Diocese of Fall Rivers and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's had "teeth", but as far as I'm concerned, the Massachusetts' AG's actions did nothing.
Here's the thing for me. I'm a Catholic and expect much from the religion with which I affiliate [...]. I'm also a lawyer with very strong feelings about the separation of church and state. However, I don't think that governmental "intermeddling" (i.e., investigations, for example) into alleged harms is an interference into the realm of church, chiefly, because the church has subjected itself to some form of state regulation – i.e., taking on a corporate form with the perks. Therefore, let the investigations and prosecutions come down. If the Roman Catholic Church (remember, individual corporate entities) don't cooperate, then take them down one by one with state action. Other national non-profits – The Boys' & Girls' Club, The American Red Cross, The United Healthcare Group – all had atrocious scandals associated with them. They were non-profits that were dealt with by the appropriate state actor accordingly. The Roman Catholic Church should be treated the same way. Let arrests for non-compliance with state and federal laws start today!
I agree with this position. If a Roman Catholic archdiocese in any given state protects a pedophile, either (a) said archdiocese faces the court of that state; or, (b) said archdiocese is stripped of its status as a non-profit corporation and is disallowed to do business in said state.
Now, some of the lawyers among you will say that the whole archdiocese, i.e., the whole corporation, should not be prosecuted; only individuals therein should be prosecuted, unless the whole corporation is shown to be in the business of molestation. My friends, the data suggests that pedophilia has been wide-spread enough, in terms of (a) number of priests; (b) number of church officials covering up the crimes; and (c) number of decades that this has been occurring, that, indeed, the Roman Catholic Church is in the pedophilia business.
As the father of two beautiful young boys, and another on the way, I urge you: do not let your children be in the presence of a Catholic priest, unsupervised, for any length of time and under any circumstances. This is not about theology anymore; whether or not Holy Communion is really a transsubstantiation or just symbolic does not seem very important anymore. This is about the lives of innocent children. May every criminal be prosecuted.
Translation of Ratzinger Letter: Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Photo of Ratzinger Letter: Kim Johnson / Associated Press.