Vatican, California Diocese, Priest, sued for Child Sex Abuse

Ratzinger Letter shows Concern for Church and Pedophile Priest, not Victims

(June 12, 2020) The Vatican in Rome and a California diocese and parish are being sued for child sex abuse in the Superior Court of the State of California, for the County of Alameda. Filed for undisclosed monetary damages by Matthews & Associates Law Firm, the lawsuit petition demands a jury trial. The defendants are the Vatican; a Northern California diocese and parish; and a priest, Stephen Kieslet.

The complaint charges the Vatican and a John Doe parish in Alameda County on two counts:  1. Negligence – Negligent Supervision, Negligent Retention; 2. Negligence – Negligent Supervision of Plaintiff.  The case was filed Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1, as amended by Assembly Bill 218. Signed into law last summer, 218 changed the state’s statute of limitations, allowing people who were sexually abused as minors a longer look-back window in which to file civil claims.

Factual Allegations: The Perpetrator

The lawsuit complaint alleges that a priest — identified as “PERPETRATOR” in the petition — sexually molested the unnamed plaintiff over a period of several years. It alleges the priest did so with the knowledge of his superiors, including the Vatican, who knew or should have known, from previous reports, that the man was a child molester.

From approximately 1975 to 1978, the petition says the “PERPETRATOR worked at Defendant DOE 2 in Union City, California, within Defendant DOE 1. PERPETRATOR was appointed to teach, counsel, instruct and guide child parishioners and students at Defendant DOE 2. 7.

The Church Knew the Perpetrator had Sexually Assaulted Minors before he assaulted the Plaintiff

The petition alleges that the “PERPETRATOR is known to have sexually assaulted children, other than Plaintiff, prior to the time PERPETRATOR sexually assaulted Plaintiff.”

In approximately 1978, the PERPETRATOR pleaded no contest to lewd conduct for tying up and sexually abusing two boys. He was sentenced to three years of probation for those crimes. Yet he remained a priest in good standing with the church.

In approximately 1981, the perpetrator petitioned Defendant DOE 3’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith seeking relief of his priestly obligations.

The petition says that from approximately 1981 to 1987, when the perp’s laicization petition was accepted, Defendant DOE 2 communicated with Defendant DOE 3 regarding whether to release PERPETRATOR from the priesthood. The lawsuit complaint includes the 1985 text of a letter from (then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Defendant DOE 1, text that Ratzinger wrote in Latin.  The arcane letter shows the church moving to protect the offending priest and the church at the expense of the plaintiff. Ratzinger wrote it to Defendant DOE 1’s Bishop John S. Cummins:

“Most Excellent Bishop,

Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Stephen Kieslet in your diocese, it is my duty to share with you the following: This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner. It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time. In the meantime your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible and in addition to explain to same the rationale of this court, which is accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes. Let me take this occasion to convey sentiments of the highest regard always to you.”

Your most Reverend Excellency Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

The petition also points out that church law specifically forbid priests from practicing sex with minors, as outlined specifically in the Defendants’ own Code of Canon Law (1917). So the church has known for more than a century that it has a pedophile priest problem.

Pontifical Secrecy Protects Church, Abandons Victims

The Canon specifically forbade priests and clergy members from having sexual relations or relationships with children under the age of sixteen. The Canon also mandated absolute secrecy before, during, and after the proceedings of the ecclesiastical courts. This was known as pontifical secrecy.

The petition reads: “The Canon also provided cover for offending priests through confession, exhibiting no concern for physical or spiritual care of the victims. Today, in the current 1983 version of the Canon, the sexual abuse of children by priests and clergy members continues to be expressly forbidden.”

So the church, all the way to the Vatican for at least 100 years, was well aware of its problem of pedophile priests preying on underage congregants.

Among other petition points is the observation that the church warned that it would severely punish anyone who might consider becoming a whistleblower over the church’s pedophile offenses:

“Defendant DOE 3 knew its widespread problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy members was worldwide, and particularly in the United States, and provided a mandated policy for the Defendant DOES 1, 2, and 4-100, which gave its clergy members and institutions the ultimatum of secrecy or excommunication. This in turn created a shroud of secrecy and sequestered priests, such as PERPETRATOR, from consequence.”

“On June 28, 1988, Defendant DOE 3 issued an apostolic constitution entitled Pastor Bonus11 (“The Good Shepherd”) that reiterated Defendant DOE 3’S Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s12 (“Congregation”) absolute power over crimes against morals, including sexual abuse of minors by clergy members. 10

The Vatican site provides a copy of the text of the Crimen soll

Church Allowed Known Pedophile Priest to Abuse Others

The petition also notes that during some of the time in which the perpetrator’s laicization was being considered by Defendant DOE3, the perp continued to work as a youth coordinator at a church in Pinole, Califomia.

Pedophile Perp Strikes Again

In approximately 2004, says the petition, the perpetrator was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 1995. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

The perpetrator is currently registered as a sex offender and is said to be living in Walnut Creek, California.

Vatican, California Parish, sued for Child Sex Abuse

The case has been filed for the plaintiff by Matthews & Associates Law Firm, which represents more than 100 Californians suing the church for sexual abuse.