Yes, that is his signature up there; on a letter he wrote resisting....resisting...pleas to defrock a California priest who had a record of child molestation. That man, the future Pope Benedict, instead, cited his concern for ''the good of the universal church,'' rather than his concern for children.
This letter, written in 1985 and obtained by The Associated Press, 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 Vatican did confirmed that it was Ratzinger's signature, but also said "[t]The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.''
Taken out of context? The letter blatantly asks that, rather than defrocking a pries with a history of child molestation, it was in the interests of the church to study the issue.
In 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office that shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests, the diocese recommended removing the Reverend Stephen Kiesle. from the priesthood, but his case sat idle for four years before Ratzinger finally replied to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. And it was another two more years before Kiesle was removed.
Six years, that Kiesle continued to do volunteer work with children through the church.
Ratzinger, in that 1985, letter, said the arguments for removing Kiesle are of ''grave significance'' but believed that such actions required careful review and more time. He urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with ''as much paternal care as possible'' while awaiting the decision. The future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the ''good of the universal church'' and the ''detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age [of the priest].''
Kiesle was 38 at the time. Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.
Yet the future pope wanted to wait and see.