It was well-known in Arizona two decades ago that Father Michael Teta was a rapist of teen boys. Teta was first suspended from his duties in 1990 because he was credibly accused of such crimes. But it took seven more years to successfully convict him in a canonical court of sexual molestation, in part because of the arcane legal expertise necessary to conduct such a trial. During that time, the rapist was paid living expenses, legal fees and health insurance by the church.
And that's how Ratzinger is connected to this case. Since Teta had used the sacrament of confession to abuse minors, the prevailing legal authority was Ratzinger's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which was first directly involved in the case in 1992. The trial had to follow the CDF's rigorous Instructio to ensure justice for the priest. After the 1997 conviction, the priest nonetheless appealed the verdict to Ratzinger's office. In documents uncovered today by the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona archbishop at the time, Manuel Moreno, wrote to Ratzinger pleading for speed in ending a case that had already gone on so long:
"I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case, because the accused was a priest in whom I had great confidence at one time, but who, unfortunately, worked among our former seminarians, and, terrible to say, evidently corrupted many of them."
According to the Star,
The church's canonical court in 1997 found "there is almost a satanic quality in (Teta's) mode of acting toward young men and boys." The court found that Teta's "insidious 'rape' of so many young men in his capacity as a priest" warranted his immediate removal from the priesthood.
And yet despite Moreno's personal appeal, it took Ratzinger's CDF another seven years to defrock this priest. He was still being paid the equivalent of administrative leave until 2004 - fourteen years after his "insidious rapes" were first reported. During those fourteen years, parishioners paid the priest about $1,400 a month. The diocese also paid for Teta's canon lawyer.
Until now, the entire blame for the slowness of the process has rested on the late Moreno's shoulders, who was seen as a poor advocate for the victims of the abuse. But with the Star's publication of internal correspondence, it's clear now that he was simply struggling to get a conviction under the CDF's arcane legal rules, which give every benefit of the doubt to the accused priest, and care not a whit about the victims of abuse. The lawyer for the victims now blames the Vatican, not Moreno, for the delay:
Cadigan has represented more than 35 local church abuse victims in civil cases, including two men who said they were assaulted in the confessional by Teta as children and, combined, received about $2 million from the diocese. The two men were not witnesses in Teta's canonical proceedings.
"I spent years claiming that (Moreno) was the evil one allowing the abuse to occur, but after reviewing the documents from the Vatican, it's clear that he did what he could within the confines of an incompetent system," Cadigan said.
In a second case, that of Father Trupia, another sex abuser, it was Moreno who had to fight tooth and nail to prevent Ratzinger's CDF from allowing him to resign in good standing, once the CDF took over the case in 2001:
In 1997, the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy told Moreno to let Trupia resign in good standing, but Moreno appealed.
"As the bishop of the diocese, I cannot take the chance of his working among our people unless I am sure of his suitability," Moreno wrote to a high Vatican official in 1997.
Said Cadigan: "Bishop Moreno tried desperately, within the confines of the Vatican, to get rid of Trupia but they wanted to let him go with good recommendations. Bishop Moreno stated very clearly that (Trupia) was a sexual predator, but the Vatican cared more about saving face and keeping it quiet than protecting children."
Attorney Kim Williamson, Cadigan's co-counsel, said it was still three years until Trupia was defrocked, and only after an Arizona Daily Star article revealed Trupia was living in Maryland and still receiving monthly checks from the Diocese of Tucson.
The current Pope cannot be a solution to this problem until he has faced his direct responsibility as a cause of this problem.
This is not going away.
(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves after celebrating the mass in memory of John Paul II on the 5th anniversary of his death in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on March 29, 2010.The Holy father, under increasing fire for the Roman Catholic Church's handling of paedophile priests, urged Christians Sunday not to be intimidated by idle 'chatter'. By Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.)