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Vatican Defends Pope in Latest Priest Sex Abuse Revelation


As accusations of gross mishandling in child sex abuse cases by Pope Benedict XVI continue to surface, the Vatican asserted over the weekend that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger acted "expeditiously" in investigating the latest revelation of priestly misconduct.

Jeffrey Lena, a Berkeley, Calif., attorney for the Holy See, wrote in a Friday statement that Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, did not ignore or hesitate to address a 1981 plea from a California bishop to remove the Reverend Stephen Kiesle from the priesthood. Kiele was criminally charged with molesting six boys several years earlier and had asked to be dismissed.

However, Ratzinger wrote that the "good of the Universal Church" needed to be weighed when considering whether to defrock the young pedophile priest. Ratzinger's signed letter on the matter "appeared to be a form letter typically sent out initially with respect to [defrocking] cases," Lena wrote.

Lena pinned the blame squarely on the bishop, John S. Cummings.

"It's the job of the bishop to discipline the priest," Lena wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times. "The pope is not a five-star general ordering his troops around. That is simply an incorrect idea about the allocation of authority as between the pope and his fellow bishops."

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