April
12
  7:41:54 AM

The decisive context of the Kiesle case


Philip LawlerFurther to the case of the former San Francisco priest Stephen Kiesle: Phil Lawler of CutholicCulture.org and Fr Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press clarify the issues in the context of the crisis of priestly dispensations and marriage annulments evident by 1980.

Most important point: the Vatican was not being asked to deal with Fr Kiesle's sexual offences -- that had already been done by California courts and Kiesle's bishop. No, it was dealing with a request for dispensation from priestly celibacy. Here is what Phil Lawler says:

• Was Cardinal Ratzinger responding to the complaints of priestly pedophilia? No. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the future Pontiff headed, did not have jurisdiction for pedophile priests until 2001. The cardinal was weighing a request for laicization of Kiesle.

• Had Oakland's Bishop John Cummins sought to laicize Kiesle as punishment for his misconduct? No. Kiesle himself asked to be released from the priesthood. The bishop supported the wayward priest's application.

• Was the request for laicization denied? No. Eventually, in 1987, the Vatican approved Kiesle's dismissal from the priesthood.

• Did Kiesle abuse children again before he was laicized? To the best of our knowledge, No. The next complaints against him arose in 2002: 15 years after he was dismissed from the priesthood.

• Did Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to make a quick decision mean that Kiesle remained in active ministry? No. Bishop Cummins had the authority to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.

• Would quicker laicization have protected children in California? No. Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to put Kiesle behind bars. If Kiesle had been defrocked in 1985 instead of 1987, he would have remained at large, thanks to a light sentence from the California courts. As things stood, he remained at large. He was not engaged in parish ministry and had no special access to children.

• Did the Vatican cover up evidence of Kiesle's predatory behavior? No. The civil courts of California destroyed that evidence after the priest completed a sentence of probation-- before the case ever reached Rome.

So to review: This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest's misconduct. This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican-- which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s -- wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you're looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant.

On the Ignatius Press blog Insight Scoop, Jesuit priest and publisher Father Joseph Fessio also provides some vital context for this case, stressing that the case “had nothing to do with pedophilia and everything to do with strengthening marriage and the priesthood.”

How was that?

Fr Fessio points out the seriousness and permanence of priestly ordination and the long period of preparation before the commitment to priesthood can be undertaken (8 to 10 years). Like marriage vows, priestly ordination is “indissoluble” -- a validly ordained priest never ceases to be a priest, just as a valid marriage can never cease to exist. And yet the effects of the sexual revolution saw requests for annulments (declaration of an invalid marriage) pouring into the Vatican, while “Hundreds, perhaps thousands of priests were asking for dispensation from their promise of celibacy in order to be able to marry.” And it seems that the requests were being rather easily granted.

This was a source of considerable scandal to Catholics, says Fr Fessio, especially to those wanting annulments so they could remarry. When John Paul II became Pope he wanted to break this momentum:

When John Paul II was elevated to the papacy in the Fall of 1978, he immediately changed the policy on priestly dispensations. I don't have the exact dates and numbers at hand, but I remember at the time that many of us were amazed that the hundreds of dispensations per year (and it may have been thousands) under John Paul II's predecessor, Paul VI, suddenly were reduced to almost zero. It was almost impossible to get a dispensation in 1980.

What was John Paul's intent? To restore the integrity of the priesthood and of marriage. These commitments are permanent. A priest may be removed from ministry, but he will not be given a dispensation to marry. Priests are to be made to take their commitments with utmost seriousness. They will be an example to married couples to take theirs seriously also. When a priest makes a promise of celibacy, it's forever; when a couple make vows of marriage, it's forever.

This is the decisive context of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to Bishop Cummins. It is not a smoking gun. It did not mean that Ratzinger was not taking the priest's sins seriously. (He called the accusations "very serious" [gravis momenti].) It meant that he, following the policy of John Paul II, was taking the priesthood and its commitments very seriously.

And again, this entire affair had nothing to do with preventing further abuse by this priest. That had already been done, or should have been done, by the local bishop.

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
about this blog 

Search this blog

 Subscribe to Just B16 newsletter
get posts by email or
rss Subscribe to Just B16 RSS feed

  Useful links about the crisis

more...

 Recent Posts
My Brother the Pope
11 May 2012
Pope Benedict goes where no pontiff has gone before…
30 Jun 2011
No “smoking gun” in Irish TV revelations
21 Jan 2011
Pope and clerical abuse: evidence for the defence
6 Dec 2010
US “surprised” at election of Benedict - Wikileaks
1 Dec 2010

 MercatorNet blogs
Population issues: Demography is Destiny
Family social policy: Family Edge
US political scene: Sheila Liaugminas
News about bioethics: BioEdge
From the editors: Conniptions

 Archive
May 2012 | Jun 2011 | Jan 2011 | more >>

  From MercatorNet's home page

The law and Martin Luther King Jr
4 Apr 2018
Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Here is one of his most powerful attacks on lukewarm…

Making the case for a new Olympics model
5 Aug 2016
The burden is just too much for a single city to bear

A vote’s consequences and a voter’s conscience
5 Aug 2016
Thoughtful Americans are caught between a rock and a hard place in the upcoming election

How the West failed in the war on terror in the Middle East
4 Aug 2016
An Australian counter-insurgency expert admits that there is no simple solution

Why the LGBT community should embrace its inner Donald
3 Aug 2016
They have far more in common than you might think


 Tags
abuse, abuse crisis, Andrew Sullivan, AP, apologies, arrest the Pope, atheists, Austria, Belgium, Benedict XVI, Bishop Pierre Pican, Bishop Walter Mixa, Bishop William Lori, bishops, book reviews, Boston Archdiocese, Boy Scouts, Brendan O'Neill, campaign, Canada, canon law, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Cardinal Hans Groer, Cardinal Newman, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, cartoons, Castrillon, Catholic Church, celibacy, charles scicluna, Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, chastity, child pornography, Church, clean-up, clerical dispensations, Communism, condoms, Connecticut, conspiracy, cover-ups, credibility, Damian Thompson, David Cameron, defrocking, Der Spiegel, Dershowitz, documents, Evangelical, Evo Morales, Fr Alvin Campbell, Fr Lawrence Murphy, Fr Marcial Maciel, Fr Rene Bissey, Fr Stephen Kiesle, France, George Pell, George Weigel, Germany, history, history of crisis, holiness, Holy See v. John Doe, homosexuality, humor, imported priests, insurance, international law, internet, Ireland, Ireland Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Italy, Jeff Anderson, Jeffrey Anderson, Jewish defender, Jewish defender Sam Miller, Jewish defenders, Jewish sex abuse, Jews, John Jay report, judicial activism, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kentucky class action suit, Kenya, Kiesle, Laurie Goodstein, law, Lawrence C. Murphy, lawsuit, lawsuits, Legionaries of Christ, Levada, Light of the World, Lithuania, London Times, Malta, media, media bias, media coverage, media credibility, media criticism, media ethics, Michael Gerson, Milwaukee, Miranda Devine, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, moral authority, moral panic, morale, narratives, Natinal Review Online, Nazi, new atheists, New York, New York times, New York Times, Obama administration , ordination of women, Oregon suit, origins, paedophilia, Papal credibility, Papal visit to UK, pedophilia, Peggy Noonan, penance, Peter Tatchell, Pew Forum, Pius XI, Polanski, policy, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, pornography, Portugal, priest abuse crisis, priest crisis, priests, propaganda, public approval ratings, public opinion, public relations, punitive damages, Reformation Day, reforms, Regensburg address, Rembert Weakland, reporting abuse, resignations, Richard Dawkins, Ross Douthat, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, same-sex marriage, Schönborn, Scouts, secrecy, secularism, seminaries, sex abuse, sex abuse safeguards, sex abuse survivors, sexual abuse, sexual revolution, sin, Sinead O’Connor, SNAP, sociology, sovereign state, Spain, Spiked, statistics, statute of limitations, stem cells, Stephen Kiesle, support, supporters, Tarciso Bertone, teachers, theologians, theology, transparency, Twitter, U.S. bishops' charter, U.S. priest abuse scandal, UK visit, United Kingdom, United States, US politics, US schools, Vatican, Vatican media response, victims, victims of sex abuse, video, visit to UK, Washington Post, Weakland, Wikileaks, youth, YouTube,