By now, the Associated Press should know that its coverage of the role of Pope Benedict XVI -- then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a top Vatican official -- in the awful case of the child-abuser and former Oakland, Calif., priest Stephen Kiesle was ill-informed and based on a faulty understanding of basics about the Catholic Church.
And yet, five months after its first report on the case, it is repeating the same gross error.
The Kiesle case is back in the spotlight because seven of his alleged victims — six women and one man — have just filed suit against the Diocese of Oakland.
And the AP still doesn't get the basic difference between Kiesle's petition to the Vatican to be dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state and the local bishop's responsibility to remove him from active ministry, and start proceedings to punish him for his offenses.
Here's the warped paragraph from the current AP story:
Kiesle's bishop had warned [Ratzinger] that returning the priest to ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers. Ratzinger replied four years later, saying he recognized the "grave significance" of the situation but suggested taking more time "for the good of the church" and cited Kiesle's young age. Kiesle was 38.
Not true, as I've written in length before. The bishop had every authority to remove Kiesle from ministry (which he did) and could have — but didn't — open a Church trial against him. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger had just taken up his Vatican position, and sent a form letter in response to a priest's petition to get out of the priesthood — not a bishop's request for a canonical penalty against an abuser. Big, crucial difference, as numerous observers have noted.
It was bad enough the AP got it wrong the first time around. Months later, why is the AP still ignorant?