[The Italian media chimes in.]
GILDAS LE ROUX
April 11, 2010 - 6:24AM
Pope Benedict XVI has come under scathing criticism by Italian media after new allegations emerged in the United States that he dragged his feet over defrocking a pedophile priest.
“These are the most turbulent times for the (Roman Catholic) Church,” said the left-leaning daily La Repubblica. “The Vatican is devastated by the pedophilia scandal, the accusations are continuing to pour in.”
The Turin daily La Stampa urged “total transparency, without exception for anyone, in any circumstance” over pedophile priest scandals that have broken out in several European countries, including the Pope’s native Germany, and the United States in recent months.
“The present difficulties of the Church and the Pope to emerge from this shower of accusations that appears to be flooding them are due to a flawed line of defence,” La Stampa said in an editorial.
Oakland (California) Bishop John Cummins sent a letter to the Vatican in June 1981 seeking Stephen Kiesle’s removal from the priesthood, citing a 1978 court case in which the priest pleaded no contest to abusing six children aged between 11 and 13.
Cummins again urged the Pope - then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Vatican’s watchdog for morals and doctrinal issues - in February 1982 to defrock Kiesle.
An additional request for action against Kiesle, sent in September 1982, was met by a reply that the matter “would be examined at an opportune time”, according to internal correspondence in the Oakland diocese.
Ratzinger eventually replied to Cummins in 1985, in Latin, acknowledging the “gravity” of Kiesle’s case, but stating he was reluctant to take action immediately because he needed to consider the effect it would have on the “good of the universal church”.
Kiesle was eventually defrocked in 1987.
The Vatican no longer has any alternative to “opening its archives and shed full light on what was done or was not done in the 1980s and 1990s”, said Marco Polliti of the left-wing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano.
“The letter signed by Ratzinger reflects the attitude of the Church during those years: the first concern was for the ecclesiastical institution,” Polliti told AFP.
Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini defended Ratzinger’s handling of the case in a statement to the Italian news agency ANSA on Friday.
“It is clearly understandable from the letter that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not cover up the case but rather stated it was necessary to study it very carefully with consideration for all parties implicated,” Benedettini said.
Kiesle received only three years’ probation in the 1978 abuse case before his record was later expunged. In 2004 he was sentenced to six years in prison for molesting a young girl nine years earlier.
The 82-year-old Pontiff has faced earlier allegations that he failed to take action against predator priests.
Andrea Tornielli of the right-wing daily Il Giornale offered some sympathy for the Pope along with some criticism of the embattled Vatican.
“The manner in which these documents and letters were presented shows that there is a keen desire to implicate the Pope at any cost,” Tornielli told AFP. “We know that in the United States they want to drag him into court.”
However, the strategy of suggesting a conspiracy against the Pope is counterproductive, he said.
“The Vatican is well aware of the reality of the accusations, but it doesn’t yet realise that the media reality is very serious, with potentially grave consequences for public opinion and that of the faithful,” Tornielli said.
© 2010 AFP