But it apparently took six years for Kiesle to leave the priesthood. In 1985, then Cardinal Ratzinger was saying that the case needed more time. During those six years that Rome was deciding Kiesle’s future, he was allowed to return to Pinole to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, AP says. Cummins also wrote to Ratzinger, warning that returning Kiesle to the ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers.
“Cardinal Ratzinger was more concerned about the avoidance of scandal than he was about protecting children,” Zalkin said in a phone interview. “That was a central theme.”
Kiesle ultimately left the priesthood in 1987–and records don’t show if Ratzinger had any role in that decision, AP says. Five years later, in 2002, he was arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molestation in the 1970s. All but two of those charges were thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down a California law that extended the statute of limitations. Kiesle pleaded no contest in 2004 to a felony charge for molesting a young girl in Truckee in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in state prison.
Kiesle was a defendant in a lawsuit filed against the Oakland diocese. Eight of Kiesle’s victims settled with the Oakland Dioceses in 2005. They were awarded between $1 million and $1.5 million each.
In the settlement, Kiesle “admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper,” Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims, told the AP. ” When asked how many children he had molested over the years, [Kiesle] said ‘tons.’ ” Eight of Kiesle’s victims settled with the Oakland Dioceses in 2005. They were awarded between $1 million and $1.5 million each.
Cummins, now 82 and retired, suggested to reporters that back in 1985 Ratzinger might have been following the tone set by Pope John Paul II regarding sex abuse allegations. John Paul’s practice at the time, according to Cummins, was to slow these cases down. “You just didn’t walk out of the priesthood then,” Cummins said.
The Vatican confirmed that Ratzinger signed the 1985 letter regarding Kiesle. Two Vatican representatives tried to downplay any suggestion that then-Cardinal Ratzinger tried to cover up the case.
One told the AP that the letter was a typical form letter asking that the diocese to proceed carefully and to guard against future abuse. Another representative said that Ratzinger was asking for more careful study take place.