Responding to an Associated Press story that accused the future Pope Benedict of resisting the laicization of a California priest accused of child sex abuse, spokesman Fr. Federico Lambardi stated today that the Vatican “doesn't believe it is necessary” to respond to “every single document taken out of context.”
The AP article, published on Friday, is based on a letter signed in 1985 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who was responding to a request by Bishop John Cummins of the Diocese of Oakland, California to remove priestly duties from Fr. Stephen Kiesle. At the time, Fr. Kiesle was accused of molesting two children in 1978.
The 1985 letter was written in Latin and translated for the AP by a professor at the University of Southern California. The AP charges that then-Cardinal Ratzinger “resisted pleas to de-frock the priest.” In the letter, the Holy Father is quoted as saying that the case needed “careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.”
Though Fr. Lombardi did not comment on the specifics of the letter, he said on Friday that "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.”
“It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger's signature,” he added.
Now-retired Bishop John Cummins, 82, whom the news agency said wrote the letter, told the AP in an interview that he did not recall doing so. “I wish I did write to Cardinal Ratzinger,” he said. “I don't think I was that smart.”