My sometimes sparring partner at America, Michael Sean Winters, has an excellent post on the latest attack against Benedict XVI.
Here are the opening two paragraphs, the rest being well worth reading since Winters takes a close look at the documents purported to prove the Holy Father guilty of a “cover-up”:
The whole world now knows about Father Stephen Kiesle of Oakland, the priest who tied up young boys and molested them sexually and whose request to be defrocked came before then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The press is swarming with assertions that, as the Washington Post headlined its story, “Future pope balked at defrocking priest.” This, we are led to believe, is the smoking gun. Raztinger signed the letter in 1985. That is HIS signature. Case closed. Here are the documents.
In talking to reporters, I raised the question: Why was this case in front of Ratzinger in the first place. It does not make sense. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was given jurisdiction over cases of the “graviora delicta” of sexual abuse only in 2001. Before that time, it is a bit unclear who had immediate jurisdiction in Rome, although one point – which I also made to reporters – went unmentioned then and in all the reporting about the future Pope’s role in handling sex abuse cases, namely, the local bishop has the authority to remove a priest from the clerical state. Recourse to Rome is necessary only to dispense a priest from his vow of celibacy, so that he can subsequently be married in the Church.