FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2006 file picture Pope Benedict XVI, right, walks with his brother priest Georg Ratzinger in Regensburg, southern Germany. The pope's brother says in a newspaper interview that he slapped pupils across the face after he took over a renowned German boys' choir in the 1960s. He also says he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school linked to the choir, but did nothing about it. In an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse published Tuesday March 9, 2010 , he said "repeatedly administered a slap in the face" to pupils at the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir. He says it was common then and he stopped after Germany banned corporal punishment in 1980. (AP Photo/Diether Endlicher,File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Church files show that before becoming pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger resisted defrocking a California priest who molested children.
A 1985 letter signed by Ratzinger cited concerns about the effect that removing the priest would have on "the good of the universal church."
The correspondence was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press. It is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, played no role in blocking removal of pedophile priests while head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.
The letter is part of years of correspondence between the diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle (KEYS'lee).
The Vatican confirmed Ratzinger's signature on the letter but declined comment on its contents.