Saturday, April 10, 2010

Here we go again

In the United Kingdom, The Times, The BBC and others are making great hay of the latest case of Fr. Steven Kiesle, a young priest in the diocese of Oakland, who had molested at least six young boys between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

He was arrested in 1978, pleaded no contest and received a three-year suspended sentence.

He requested laicisation voluntarily in 1981.

In the UK, The Times, the BBC and others say that this is the "smoking gun" , the issue which pins the "blame" on Pope Benedict while he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

They have published a letter from then-Prefect Cardinal Ratzinger about the case.

They state that in the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are 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.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age." Kiesle was 38 at the time.

The best explanations and refutations of this latest "scandal" and attempt to smear Pope Benedict (in English) are:

I have to say that the media onslaught appears to be beyond the capacity of the Vatican Media Office to deal with. This is not a criticism of the Media Office. But they are a small department and appear to be under-resourced to fight against the might of the The New York Times, the Associated Press, the BBC and others.

As most of these stories originate in the so called "Anglo-Saxon" countries, perhaps the Bishops Conferences of the United States, Canada, England and Wales and others should get together to finance a more speedy efficient and professional response to all these stories which are damaging to the Pope and the Church. Especially as most of the incidents they refer to all originated within these jurisdictions.

There is only so much that individual journalists and some bloggers can do against the huge onslaught.

All of these attacks are based on sloppy journalism using selective quotation and a faulty understanding of the case and the context. They are all motivated by a malicious desire on the part of some to smear and weaken the Church using the potent smear of "pedophilia" and a desire on the part of some to make a name for themselves using as a disguise the pursuit of truth and justice.

We need more calm and rational rebuttals on the lines of Father Fessio, Miss Pieper and Miss Meichtry to ward off and defeat such attacks.

Even if sometimes the spotlight of blame falls squarely on the individual dioceses where such events took place. It will be painful and embarassing

But sunlight is often the best form of disinfectant.

Or do people really want the remainder of this pontificate to be like that of the last years of Pope Paul VI when after the adverse reaction to Humanae Vitae, the Pope was not listened to and there was drift and inaction ?

Post Scriptum

Since the above was written Sergio Centofanti through Radio Vaticana has spoken about the Caso Kiesle. Smentite le nuove accuse

He states that it was a case where the priest was asking for laicisation.

It was not a case where the Bishop had referred the case to the Vatican so that a penal or criminal sanction could be obtained: to reduce him from the clerical to the lay state. In the latter case until 2001, those cases were solely within the jurisdiction of the local bishop.

The then Cardinal Ratzinger had exhorted the Bishop to "have the greatest paternal care" for the priest. This phrase was simply a way of saying that the priest was under the authority and care of the Bishop. No more, no less. There was nothing sinister about the use of the phrase.

It also said that for those times the time taken for the process was quite short considering the standards of that time

Hat tip to Palazzo Apostolico – Diario Vaticano di Paolo Rodari