The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature. The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

The pope—then Cardinal Ratzinger—refused to defrock Rev. Stephen Kiesle in 1985 despite the fact that Kiesle himself had asked to be laicized after serving three years probation for "tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory" in 1978. The Diocese of Oakland all but begged Ratzinger to defrock Kiesle but Ratzinger refused, citing the "good of the universal church" and the fact that Kiesle was only 38 and defrocking such a young priest was likely to attract attention and create a scandal. So what did the Catholic Church do with Kiesle while it dithered and stalled?

As Kiesle's fate was being weighed in Rome, the priest returned to suburban Pinole to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, where he had served as associate pastor from 1972 to 1975.... Kiesle continued to volunteer with children, according to Maurine Behrend, who worked in the Oakland diocese's youth ministry office in the 1980s. After learning of his history, Behrend complained to church officials. When nothing was done she wrote a letter, which she showed to the AP.

Kiesle would eventually be defrocked—and was eventually charged with molesting 13 children. He told a lawyer that he molested "tons" of children, boy and girls, "every child that sat on his lap."

And the current pope thought that kicking this guy out of the church was the scandal.

Read the whole, sickening story here.