Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

A timeline

I haven't written much about religious current events lately, possibly because I'm finding them so depressing, but I thought I would post this Oakland newspaper's timeline of the Pope/Kiesle situation because, without any commentary at all, it illustrates what's wrong ....

Timeline of defrocked priest Stephen Kiesle

Kiesle timeline

# 1972: Ordained at St. Francis De Sales, Oakland.

# 1972-1975: Associate pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Pinole.

# 1975-1978: Assigned to Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City.

# August 1978: Kiesle is arrested and pleads no contest to lewd conduct, a misdemeanor, for tying up and molesting two boys. Sentenced to three years of probation. His record is later expunged.

# 1978-1981: Takes extended leave of absence, attends counseling and reports regularly to probation officer.

# July 1981: Oakland Bishop John Cummins sends Kiesle's file to the Vatican in support of the priest's petition for laicization, or defrocking.

# November 1981: Vatican asks for more information.

# 1982: Kiesle moves to Pinole.

# February 1982: Cummins writes to Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, providing additional information and warning of possible scandal if Kiesle is not defrocked.

# September 1982: Oakland diocese official writes Ratzinger asking for update.

# September 1983: Cummins visits Rome, discusses Kiesle case with Vatican officials.

# December 1983: Vatican official writes Oakland to say Kiesle's file can't be found and they should resubmit materials.

# January 1984: Cummins writes a Vatican official to inquire about status of Kiesle file.

# 1985: Kiesle volunteers as a youth minister at St. Joseph's Church in Pinole.

# September 1985: Cummins writes Ratzinger asking about status of Kiesle case.

# November 1985: Ratzinger writes to Cummins about Kiesle case.

# December 1985: A memo from diocese officials discusses writing to Ratzinger again to stress the risk of scandal if Kiesle's case is delayed.

# 1987: Kiesle is defrocked.

# 2002: Kiesle is arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molestation; all but two are thrown out after U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidates a California law extending statute of limitations.

# 2004: Kiesle pleads no contest to felony charge of molesting a young girl in 1995 at his Truckee vacation home.

# 2004: He is sentenced to six years in prison for the 1995 molestation.

# 2005: Ratzinger is elected pope and adopts the name Pope Benedict XVI.

# 2009: Kiesle is released on parole in March; he violates parole in October and returns to prison.

# 2010: Kiesle is released in February. He is a registered sex offender living in Rossmoor, the gated seniors community in Walnut Creek.


- A 1985 letter, written in Latin, to the Diocese of Oakland signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The letter said that a California priest accused of molesting children should not be defrocked without further study. - from the story mentioned above


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Astonishing, isn't it, that a bishop in the US (or anywhere else for that matter) has to ask permission from Rome to laicise a priest convicted of lewd conduct involving children! And that such a request can take several years to process!

Most astonishing is that there are people still defending the Vatican over this.

10:12 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi PrickliestPear,

Yes. I don't doubt there will be more situations like this one coming to light in the near future. I guess the pope and the heirarchy feel pretty untouchable, and I suppose they are :(

12:47 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

If we are going to make judgments here I think we have to be careful to look at society as it was almost 30 years ago. For one thing, the laicization of a priest was almost unheard of. Second, this was not just a forced liicization, but the priest had requested it, which probably put it into at least two different courts. Third, notice what the civil legal system did: put him on probation.

While I do not have information as to whether or not the Church turned him in to civil authorities or not, at least the civil authorities had a crack at him, so we can't blame the Church for covering up the problem, which is my big gripe. And taking 4 years to get a laicization through Rome in only 4 years was probably a record.

I find two major faults, the first and prime one being with the civil courts that a more sever penalty was not imposed, and the second that the bishop allowed the priest to continue in a situation where further abuse was probable. But even here, the Bishop was following the general beliefs of the time.

I can find little or no fault with Ratzinger. He was processing a case that was a request by a priest to be laicized. Some priests that left the Priesthood then still haven't been laicized.

I would also point out that as far as I know the man that killed the women in Boston has not yet been tried. Our civil courts are no faster in many cases than the Church courts.

Yes, this case does show major faults in both Church and Civil proceedings, but I think that some of the major problems have been corrected. I also think the lay people of the Church have been at fault to some extent in that they refused to recognize (and many still do) that such problems could occur and when a priest is accused stand behind him and condemn the victims for trying to destroy the Church.

There are many acts in the Church that can be condemned, I don't think this is a major one.


Mike L

2:05 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

There have been lots of bad church things in the past but there's nothing we can do about most of that. This is so recent that it still seems very fixable.

This is not just about certain acts, this is about the moral integrity of our church's leaders. As far as I can tell, they are liars, hypocrits, and in many cases criminals, given their handling of these cases of abuse. This undermines everything else they do/say, at least for me.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Hi Crystal,

As you know I teach Adults and I have to tell you that the events that have transpired since the Murphy report, etc., have really forced to be go to the root of what I believe and WHY, especially because I am an Adult Convert, like you.

Now, unless someone has had a lobotomy and thus is not able to use reason, I believe that most people would agree that some of the Bishops have been liars and hypocrites and that their actions have, in many cases, been criminal. But that's a dead horse that I don't want to beat.

What I do want to is examine what wrote in your last paragraph, or rather the assumption in your last paragraph, together. Why? Because, it seems to me, that you are linking the veracity of Truth to ethics, or better yet, sinlessness.

Well, if that's true then everyone should automatically assume that when an adulterer says that adultery is a moral evil that they should not be believed. However, if someone who has never broken their marriage vows says that adultery is wrong they should automatically be believed. Now, is this reasonable? Isn't truth Truth despite the sinfulness or sinlessness of the messenger?

I want us to examine this point together because this objection has been raised so often – first of all inside me and then by those I have been teaching. For if that prinicple and/or assumption is true then a mother or father who was a prostitute (feel free to insert any other “vice” here) should not bother telling their child that it is wrong because a hypocrite can't be a witness for the truth.

I am sorry if I am not making sense but it's late and my blood sugar is very high and I am waiting for my insulin to kick in. Nevertheless, I hope I have made myself clear, to some extent.

Pax my friend,


9:01 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Crystal, I won't disagree with you about the moral problems in the Church's leaders. But I don't believe that the press is a heck of a lot better. An example, I have been reading that this priest admitted to abusing 6 boys. But today I read that he pleaded nole condendre to the crime. That is not an admission of guilt, just a statement that he will not fight the charges. Quite a bit different from saying yes, I am guilty. I would just about be willing to bet that this was a plea bargin situation because the prosecutor wasn't sure that he could win in front of a jury. If so, this story takes on a different light, but most people don't want to look at it and honestly evaluate the real facts.

I am pro media, but I try to check them out just as carefully as I check out the bishops and cardinals.

I don't believe there is truth in either of them most of the time :).

PrickliestPear, the local bishop can remove him from ministry, but he did not have the power to laicize him, i.e. release him from his promise of celibacy, only the pope could do that. And it is now coming out that the request for laicization was not coming from the bishop, but the priest. It is my understanding that the bishop now has the power to laicize a priest that has obviosly left the priesthood.

One problem with you young people, is that you didn't live in those times when everything moved much slower and to different rules. The world has changed tremendously in the last 30-50 years.



9:41 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Henry,

Do you teach RCIA classes?

I think what you are saying, and I could be wrong, is that a person can sometimes do a good thing, sometimes do a bad thing, and the fact that they have done a bad thing doesn't disqualify them from also doing good. In a way you see people as divorced morally from their acts? Is this that Catholic thing of hating the sin but loving the sinner?

I think it's hard to divorce people from their acts, and that the way they act is due to the kind of person they are or perhaps want to be - their acts flow from their beliefs about what's right, and you can tell (mostly) what someone believes by what they actually do.

I'm just angry. I was abused as a kid so I'm not objective. I do think the church can reveal the truth. I just try to discern when that is actually happening, though, becuae I believe the church is led by fallible human beings.

11:29 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I don't get why it takes so long to defrock - what about priests who simply walk out the door and don't look back - wonder how long it takes to defrock them .... Fernando Lugo, JD Crossan, James Carroll?

Yes, I suspect the priest made a plea bargain, but that soen't mean what was attributed to him didn't happen - he could have plead to a lesser offense because the case would be hard to win, but also maybe because the parents of the kids didn't want them to testify in court. He was later arrested and did time for abusing others, so I think it's a safe bet he was a pedophile.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Hi Crystal,

I was afraid that the comment I wrote last night would be unclear because my Diabetes was really acting up and when it does that I get what I call “mental fogginess.” I am still off today but let me try again anyway.

First, and most importantly, I am so sorry that you were abused – what a horrible experience!!! I have two friends who were also abused (one of them was abused by a priest!) and so, I have seen, up close, the damage that this evil does to a person.

Now, regarding your first paragraph, that’s not what I was trying to say.

What I am trying to say is that no sin can prevent Christ from working. In fact, in my experience I have seen that the truth of who Christ is and His teachings passes through fallible and sinful human beings precisely because He willed it to be so, because that's the method He uses. Of course this scandalizes me (and most people) precisely because I have been educated to think that a hypocrite can’t be a channel for Truth. But I know that can’t be true because then I, in some way, would be saying that the fallibility and sinfulness of the person is somehow stronger than Christ and His Love and Grace.

So my gaze is focused on Christ and His actions – His method. Look, Christ made us part of Him when we were baptized and because of His action, we are now His ambassadors. Thus, for example, when you post things on your blog you are doing exactly what you said in your third paragraph – i.e., your posts are channels through which Christ manifests who He is in the unique unrepeatable person named Crystal. So, without you, our understand of Who Christ is would be poorer. Now you, like me, are a hypocrite. Why do I know this? Because I presume that, you, like me, go to confession. And what are we doing in confession? Well, we are acknowledging that we are hypocrites. Why? Because we have promised – and we renewed those promises again at Easter – to be conduits of Christ’s love. Ok, so even though I am a hypocrite does that prevent Christ from manifesting His beauty and Truth through us? That’s the point I am trying to make.

Now, I have been having many conversations with my friend (the one who was abused by the priest) about justice especially in light of the editorial that Fr. Carron, who is the President of Communion and Liberation – a lay movement in the Church that we both belong to – and based on the work that we did together on his provocation we’ve understood that that the only “justice” that would satisfy his heart is to be returned to the way he was before the priest abused him. This doesn’t mean that his abuser shouldn’t be punished but I asked him, even if we killed all the abusers (and I mean a really slow painful death!) would that be enough? Would it really satisfy his desire for wholeness?

Anyway, I am rambling.

Pax Crystal!


P.S., I teach Adult Faith Formation classes as well as one-on-one classes for people discerning if they Christ is calling them to become a Catholic Christian.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Mike L said...

The Church has always been reluctant to defrock a priest, far more difficult then getting a marriage annulled, which was just about impossible even if you had money. Things loosened up a bit after Vatican II, but the number of priests leaving the Church was phenomenal. I think the Vatican felt that many of the young priests were simply following a trend and made it a policy that no priest would be laicized below the age of 40.

There are two different paths through the Vatican for the laicizationm of a priest, one is forced defrocking for crimes committed and is usually instituted by the priest bishop. I have to note at that time, Ratzinger would not have seen these cases, they would have been handled by some other section of the Vatican. The second path is for priests that claim for some reason or another that they should not have been ordained and wish to be released from their vows, and is instituted by the priest himself, and does not reflect on his behavior. This path is a slow path and is somewhat equivalent to the request for an annulment and requires lots of forms, lots of testimony, and moves slow. This was the path that this priest was following, and it went to Ratzinger's office.

You ask about priests that just walk away from the Church. In the past if they did not request defrocking, they were still considered priests until they died or really did something bad, in which case the defrocking process might be started. I think today that this has changed and after some number of years, I don't know what the time frame is, that when the bishop decides that the priest will not come back he is defrocked. I don't know if the power lies in the bishop or Rome simply stamps it as done.

As with you, I think this priest was sexually abusive. I think that he has also been accused of abusing a young girl, so I don't know what that makes him, except a pretty low person. Believe me, I was not denying his crime, I was just trying to point out that the press can lie, cheat, and twist just as well as any cleric can. I do think that there is a witch hunt going on trying to show Ratzinger committed some crime, and maybe something will really come up, but I don't believe this is it. My question becomes not what did he do, but what is he going to do that corrects the situation.

I think what Henry is saying is that even a liar can sometimes tell the truth, and I agree with him. However, I side a bit with Crystal in that once I have been lied to I am weary of accepting statements from them as truth until I check it out from other reliable sources. And, if they lie often enough I just don't listen to them since it is so much work checking them out. I think, Henry, that even worse is the person that mingles truth with lies, and I think this is what the press is doing at this point. This requires much more discernment.

And maybe one who has practiced a vice, and given it up, has a much healthier understanding of why it is a vice to be avoided.

None the less, the Lord is risen, the day is beautiful, and we may get rain in the form of a thunderstorm which is always welcome here.

Love and blessings,

Mike Lbabyran

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Thank you Mike, you succinctly summed up what I was trying to say and you point out something very important. That is, I strongly agree that we must always use all the “tools” of our “I” (reason, experience, knowledge gained from watching a person’s comportment, etc.) to evaluate if a person is or is not a credible witness.

In fact, I believe that a factor that must be corrected is the rampant clericalism that exists. What I mean by that is the following: I can spend months demonstrating to a cradle Catholic that the Eucharist is not a symbol – using the Compendium of the CCC, various magisterial documents, writings from the saints, etc. – and then a priest will make a statement like – "well, yes, it’s true that the Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ after consecration but theologians are going beyond that now, etc." – and what happens? Almost every cradle Catholic in the room will think: “hmm… Henry must be wrong because Father Jim says that we are moving beyond that.” I find that incredible!!!

Regarding what you say about the press, I agree.



10:24 AM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Hi Henry, I am also diabetic (type 2) and using the new byetta for control. Works well, but sometimes too well, been chugging chocolate to get the blood up.

I agree with you about clericalism, and some of the priests have some really weird ideas, but then so do some lay people :)

As for the Eucharist, I do believe in the real presence, but I do not accept St Thomas' explanation. I think his philosophy is a wonder logical model, but I don't think it describes reality well as we see it today. I think we need a new St. Thomas to develop a new model.

Hope you get the blood sugar under control soon, having it all over the place is a real pain.


Mike L

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Thanks Mike – how long have you had type II – it’s been 20 years for me. I’ve just started Byetta myself, so far it’s OK but I’ve had the same swings that you are having as well as the nausea – I’ll keep you posted. I also sometimes still use Lantus but my doctor has advised me not to do that too often.

Regarding the Real Presence, I agree that a new vocabulary would be useful as long as that vocabulary is faithful to the reality of the Mystery. (BTW, have you read Xavier Zubiri’s writings on the Eucharist?) Yes, lay people (including both of us in some areas!) do sometimes have strange ideas and that’s why I contine to study the the Faith!)

I forgot to mention that I also believe that what contributed to the crisis is that many bishops — because of a rampant attitude of antinomianism spurred on by false understandings of tolerance and freedom (e.g., the decline in fraternal correction and an accountability system in rectories that used to exist) — actually ignored the Church’s canonical legal system. Had they actually followed it, I am convinced that we could have prevented so much of the abuse!

Let’s keep each other in prayer.



12:11 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I'm sorry to see you have diabetes. My stepfather was just diagnosed with type II also. He's trying to change his diet based on the gylcemic index so that he hopefully won't need as much medication.

About justice, speaking for myself, I have tried to forgive everyone that I think has done me wrong, mostly because I know I've done many people wrong and I hope to be forgiven. I't not that I think the hierarchy should be punished in some way but I wish they acknowledged they had done wrong and then changed the system that led to the wrongs.

Interesting about the eucharist and real presence. I've been trying to find online what Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx wrote about it as I think they saw the eucharist more symbolically. I'll have to look up Xavier Zubiri. About church teaching - the Jesuit who's my spiritual director is always blowing my mind with his take on theology :)

I think I understand what you're saying - we're all frail and imperfect but we can still sometimes exemplify the truth?

2:19 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


If you're interested any more in that case of the priest in California, dotCommonweal had a post on it with a lot of very informative comments to it here.

I hope you're feeling ok, that the cats and dog and ham radio are ok :)

2:24 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Crystal, I have been following a lot of this on dotcommonweal. What is starting to disturb me about the whole blogsphere is if you talk about abusive priests, the response concerns bishops covering up, if you post about that it moves to the pope covering up, or back to only 4% of the priests are abusive, etc. Everyone seems to want to argue, but no one wants to stick to the topic and really look at it. Shees!

Henry, I have read that if you look at the council of Trent, I believe it was, that they would have thought that one of the essential elements of anything was its symbolism. I wonder if we aren't struggling against something that isn't there?

Guess I have only been on medications for 5 or 6 years, Henry. I had good control, but told my doctor I was going on Byetta because of weight gain. And I have managed to lose about 20 lbs on it. Hope I can eek another 20 out. Drop me an email at so we don't bore Crystal to death with our health issues :).


5:12 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Who's bored? Not me :)

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Thank you Crystal - yes it is definitely a cross. The American Diabetes Association is a good site so please tell your stepfather about it.

While one can always wish for more or that things were done in a differnt way, I was personally impressed by Pope Benedict’s letter to the Catholics of Ireland because it is so fatherly - in the good sense of the word. I know people say it’s not enough but I am positive that he personally wants to make dramatic changes - whether others will listen, that’s another story.

I only have a cursory knowledge of Rahner. I am more familiar with Schillebeeckx and I think his “Christ, The Sacrament of the Encounter with God” is magnificent. Here’s what Zubiri wrote in his first paragraph of a talk he gave on the Eucharist, which pretty much sums up what I would say: “The Eucharist is the supreme form of the life of Christ in each one of us. It is a mystery. As such it is something which cannot be “explained”. Nevertheless, it can be “treated” conceptually in order to determine the precise point of origin for the mysterious, in the mystery. That is what theology does. Therefore, one thing is the mystery and faith in it, and another the theological conceptualization. Obviously, theological concepts are not requisite for a belief in the Eucharist.”

So, especially when I teach Adults/converts, I tell them that what’s important is the reality of the Eucharist - i.e., it IS the risen Christ.

As strange as it sounds, what I usually say is that Christ uses us - you, me, Mike who are frail and imperfect - to incarnate the Truth, which is Himself. That fact always takes my breath away!



7:45 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Thanks Mike I will write to you so we can discuss health issues off the blog - Crystal I am happy to keep you in the loop too!

Perhaps I am wrong but, as I recall, they discuss things like “what is to be understood by the word “sign.’” I am always fuzzy about history but I believe that at the Council of Trent the Church was refuting the Protestant belief that the Eucharist was a symbol, which has a different meaning than the word “sign.”

Anyway, it’s really a fact we will never understand in its fullness and we try to come up with a vocabulary that reflects the reality of the Eucharist for our time - not an easy task!



7:47 PM  
Blogger Mike L said...

Could well be, Henry, I tend to catch pieces here and there and it drives my wife crazy because I can't always tell her where I got the information from :). Alas, sometimes the older brain cells also get things confused and I am (gasp) wrong about what someone said.

Look forward to email from you.


Mike L

8:32 AM  

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