The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a US priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature. The correspondence, obtained by the AP, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.
The typewritten letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the diocese of Oakland, Calif., and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle. In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger said the arguments for removing Kiesle were of "grave significance" and urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with "as much paternal care as possible" while awaiting the decision.