THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week are the latest developments surrounding devastating scandal surrounding the Roman Catholic Church, the sexual abuse of children, and an apparent cover-up. In the latest revelations, published late yesterday, there’s new evidence of the pope delaying punishment for a suspected pedophile.

The priest, convicted of tying up and abusing two young boys in a California church rectory, wanted to leave the ministry.

But in 1985, four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision, according to church documents released through lawsuits.

That decision did not come for two more years, the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.

As the scandal has deepened, the pope’s defenders have said that, well before he was elected pope in 2005, he grew ever more concerned about sexual abuse and weeding out pedophile priests. But the case of the California priest, the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, and the trail of documents first reported on Friday by The Associated Press, shows, in this period at least, little urgency.

Reports suggest that the Vatican, at the time, was concerned about the dwindling number of priests, and then-Cardinal Ratzinger took note of Kiesle’s young age (38) in his letter. That correspondence, the AP noted, “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.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* To say that the religious right movement is looking forward to the next Supreme Court confirmation fight would be an understatement.

* A vaguely-theocratic religious right activist appears to be a leading contender this year to be elected to the Texas Supreme Court. [corrected]

* Archbishop Jose Gomez, the Vatican’s new choice to lead the Los Angeles archdiocese, is a member of Opus Dei. (thanks to reader D.J. for the heads-up)

* And top official at a prominent religious right group called this week for the U.S. deportation of all Muslim Americans. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this won’t happen, but that it’d even come up — in print, no less — is evidence of the latest twists and turns of the religious right worldview.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.