US abuse survivors begin legal action against church

By staff writers
22 Aug 2010

Seven people who say they were abused as children by a Roman Catholic priest in California are taking legal action against the Catholic Church.

They are suing the diocese of Oakland, where the abuse is alleged to have taken place. They accuse the diocese of hiring the priest, Stephen Kiesle, despite knowing that there were several allegations of abuse against him.

Kiesle was removed from the priesthood in 1987. Nine years earlier, he had been convicted of “lewd conduct” with two boys.

The six women and one man who are bringing the case allege that the Diocese did nothing effective to safeguard children. One of their lawyers has said that the Church was more concerned with its own reputation.

In response, a spokesperson for the diocese of Oakland told the BBC that they have not yet seen the details of the legal challenge filed against them.

The case has drawn attention partly because of the involvement of the current Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, who discussed Kiesle's potential defrocking with the diocese in the 1980s. He wrote that the allegations against Kiesle were of “grave significance” and that the question of removing him from the priesthood required “careful review”.

However, neither the Pope nor Vatican officials are named in the current lawsuit.

The Roman Catholic Church has faced thousands of allegations of child sexual abuse in various parts of the world in recent years. Grassroots Catholic groups have urged the Vatican to respond more meaningfully to the crisis and to address the power structures and culture that encouraged the cover-up of abuse.

[Ekk/1]

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