The Pope can't blame a NYT conspiracy or rumor-mongering this time. Whatever "woes" the Catholic Church is experiencing is a result of the multitude of cases of child-raping priests left free to run amok mount, leaving the church looking more like a crime syndicate than a bastion of faith.

And now he's tied directly to pedophile priest-enabling, with a 1985 letter with his John Hancock on it.

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 Vatican confirmed Friday that it was Ratzinger's signature. ''The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations,'' the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Love how this all drops on Friday, the traditional drop day for really, really bad news. This is truly an apocalyptic development now, and the Vatican knows it.

The letter also revealed quite specifically that Ratzinger wanted to protect the church, not the victims.

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of ''grave significance'' but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with ''as much paternal care as possible'' while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the ''good of the universal church'' and the ''detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age.'' Kiesle was 38 at the time.

Another big shout-out for criminal enterprise-defending Bill Donohue -- in this particular case, the pedophile priest molested a young girl in his Truckee home in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in state prison. How does that fit into your "homosexual problem in the church" meme, Bill? These priests are engaging in deviant criminal behavior.

This is the man Benedict sought to protect and keep in the flock:

''He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap,'' said Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims who interviewed the former priest in prison. ''When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said 'tons.'''

In another report , Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesbot, acknowledged that the Church had lost public trust and reiterated Pope Benedict’s willingness to meet more victims of abuse.

Meeting more victims of abuse isn't going to cut it. The Pope, the cardinals, the bishops and all who know about the church policy on covering this whole mess up, deserve an indictment, not a chance to stand before victims.

If that's the route they want to take, then then every victim the Vatican plans to have Benedict meet needs to ask the Pope directly to answer what he knew and when he knew it before cameras, since it won't happen in a court room.


* 1963 letter: Pope Paul VI aware of pedophile priests; Vatican plans immunity defense for Benedict

* Watch: survivors of abuse point the finger of blame directly at Benedict

* NYT: Pope Benedict tied to coverup of predator priest molestation of 200 deaf boys

* Bill Donohue: the NYT is being mean to the Pope

* Paper: The Devil is living in the Vatican, says the Pope's chief exorcist

* The child-rape scandal has closed in on Pope Benedict XVI

* Papal aide and elite men's Vatican choir caught in gay prostitution ring