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AP reporting that Pope resisted defrocking former Union City priest

Church Abuse CaliforniaA couple of years ago, The Argus, led by our former City Editor Rob Dennis, did a series on priest abuse in the Oakland Diocese, which includes Fremont and Union City.

The series mentioned Stephen Kiesle, a former East Bay priest, who was arrested and charged with molesting three girls at Santa Paula in the late 1960s and early 1970s and in 1978 plead no contest to a misdemeanor lewd conduct charge for tying up and molesting two boys, ages 11 and 12, at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City.

Today, the AP posted a story at the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1985, resisted the diocese’s pleas to defrock Kiesle.
To read the AP story click here.
To read the AP’s timeline of events regarding Kiesle, click here
To read Ratzinger’s letter, click here.

And to read our stories, click here and here and here and here.

Below is a segment about Kiesle from Part II of the series:

‘It’s over’

The accusations against Tollner came in the months after the widely publicized Breen investigation, and four years after another priest sex-abuse case had made headlines.

In June 1978, Crespin was serving as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City when police came looking for his associate pastor, the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, who had been accused of molesting young boys.

Kiesle was on vacation. When he returned, Crespin confronted him with the accusations.

“It’s over,” Kiesle sighed.

He pleaded no contest to lewd conduct — a misdemeanor — for tying up and sexually molesting two boys, 11 and 12 years old, in the rectory at Our Lady of the Rosary. The self-described “Pied Piper of the neighborhood” was sentenced to three years of probation.

Afterward, Kiesle was sent to therapy and then “offered hospitality” by the pastor at St. Columba in Oakland, Crespin said. Kiesle was removed from the priesthood at his own request in 1981.

Kiesle was not finished with the diocese, however.

Four years after he was defrocked, he began to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph in Pinole, where he had served before his time at Our Lady of the Rosary.

In May 1988, an outraged worker at the diocese’s Office of Youth Ministry wrote a letter asking why Kiesle remained in place after three complaints about having the former priest in such an inappropriate position had been lodged in the previous eight months — most recently to Cummins.

“How are we supposed to have confidence in the system, when nothing is done?” wrote the worker, Maurine Behrend. “A simple phone call to the pastor from the bishop is all it would take: ‘We do not allow convicted child molesters to work with children in this diocese.’”

Shortly afterward, Cummins removed Kiesle from his position.

In 2002, Kiesle was arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molestation, 11 of them stemming from his time at Our Lady of the Rosary, and before that at St. Joseph in Pinole and Santa Paula in Fremont. All but two of the charges were dismissed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a California law extending the statute of limitations in such cases.

The remaining charges were resolved two years later, when Kiesle was sentenced to six years in prison for molesting a young girl at his Truckee vacation home in 1995.

Matt Artz