After having his ministery restricted; forbidden to wear clerical dress, to say Mass publically, to preach, to hear Confessions, to present himself as a priest, by his bishop, Fr Stephen Kiesle asked to be released from his obligation of celibacy, his obligation to say the Divine Office and his obligation of obedience to the his Bishop and his subjection to those parts od Canon Law relating to clerics, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote urging caution for, “the good of the universal Church”.
Priests can be "laicised" or "defrocked" for two reasons:
- As a punishment for grave crimes, in which case it is a degradation. In which case the Bishop applies for the individuals dismissal.
- As a privelege, for those who wish wish to remain in good standing with the Church, eg those who wish to marry. In which case the individual applies through his Bishop.
Thus the phrase for "the good of the universal Church" far from being a dereliction of duty and cover-up on the part of the future Pope, as so many secular commentators have suggested, is the complete opposite. As others have pointed out this letter appears to be a "form" letter but I would suggest it shows the wisdom of the Church's caution in washing its hand of sinful priests. The "good of the Universal Church", is not always the safest or easiest option for the Church.
If you haven't done so read Phil Lawlor on this case.