The Vatican has defended Pope Benedict from accusations that, in a previous post as a senior Church official, he tried to impede the defrocking of a California priest who had sexually abused children. In a statement, a California-based Vatican lawyer accused the media of a “rush to judgment” and said the case had never been referred to the Vatican as an abuse case but as one of a man who wanted to leave the priesthood.
In a 1985 letter from the Vatican, typed in Latin and translated for The Associated Press, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the bishop of Oakland he needed more time “to consider the good of the Universal Church” as he reviewed a request by the man to leave the priesthood.
Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said he could not confirm the authenticity of the letter but indicated that it appeared to be “a form letter typically sent out initially with respect to laicization cases,” when men ask to leave the priesthood.
Lena “denied that the letter reflected then-Cardinal Ratzinger resisting pleas from the bishop to defrock the priest,” the statement said. “There may be some overstep and rush to judgment going on here,” Lena said on Saturday.