Smoke enough around Pope Benedict, but a gun?
The case of Stephen Kiesle raises questions about whether and if so why then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delayed for years the action requested to better protect young Catholics from a predator.
Michael Sean Winters, writing for the Jesuit magazine American, excoriates the secular press and defends Vatican handling of the case in which “the priest who tied up young boys and molested them sexually and whose request to be defrocked came before” Ratzinger.
Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal strips Winters’ defense to the bone today. At the heart of the scandal, Gallicho finds damning questions:
So, why shouldn’t we raise questions about Rome’s role in the Kiesle case? Because the local bishop didn’t do enough, and besides Ratzinger didn’t receive a sufficiently detailed description of the priest’s crimes, and besides the process didn’t engage the proper canonical technicality? But we don’t have to choose to be troubled either by the local bishop or Ratzinger. We need not view the [Ratziner-headed Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith] CDF’s shortcomings in indirect proportion to the local bishop’s, so that the CDF is absolved to the extent that the local bishop failed. The same pattern of argument emerged in the Murphy case. “What about Weakland’s responsibility?” Benedict’s defenders asked, as though that swept away the questions that remained about the pope’s role in the case. Yes, why didn’t Weakland restrict Murphy sooner? Why did he wait three years after learning of Murphy’s egregious sins before sending the case to Rome? Why didn’t Kiesle’s bishop restrict him sooner? But they appealed to Rome, so: why did the CDF wait three years after receiving all the information it requested from Cummins to reply? Why was a Vatican official unable to grasp what the Kiesle’s superiors meant when they gently referred to his abuse of minors, even going so far as mentioning his criminal conviction? Why wasn’t the conviction determinative?
And then there are the larger questions: Why was Ratzinger on this case? Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he shouldn’t be blamed for Rome’s failure to address abuse claims promptly because he wasn’t officially responsible for such cases until 2001. Obviously that isn’t the whole story. Why not? Why was Ratzinger not really engaged in the Murphy case, which involved the abuse of as many as 200 deaf boys, but he was directly responsible for the decision not to release Kiesle from the full obligations of the clerical state? When Kiesle was finally fully laicized at age forty, whose decision was that? Ratzinger’s?
Certainly smoke enough to imply a gun as we struggle with questions Benedict could answer but does not.
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