Pope defrocked 400 priests in 2 years
Vatican City: In his last two years as pope, Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children, more than twice as many as the two years that preceded a 2010 explosion of sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond, according to a document and an analysis of Vatican statistics.
The data - 260 priests defrocked in 2011 and 124 in 2012, a total of 384 - represented a dramatic increase over the 171 priests defrocked in 2008 and 2009.
It was the first compilation of the number of priests forcibly removed for sex abuse by the Vatican`s in-house procedures and a canon lawyer said the real figure is likely far higher, since the numbers don`t include sentences meted out by diocesan courts.
The spike started a year after the Vatican decided to double the statute of limitations on the crime, enabling victims who were in their late 30s to report abuse committed against them when they were children.
The Vatican has actually made some data public year by year in its annual reports. But an internal Vatican document prepared to help the Holy See defend itself before a U.N. committee this week in Geneva compiled the statistics over the course of several years. Analysis of the raw data cited in that document, which was obtained by the AP, confirmed the figures.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican`s U.N. Ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of often pointed criticism and questioning Thursday from the UN human rights committee. He said 418 new child sex abuse cases were reported to the Vatican in 2012.
The Vatican initially said the AP report seemed to be a misinterpretation of the 418 figure. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later issued a correction based on confirmation of the AP calculations by the Vatican`s former sex crimes prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna.
The Vatican`s annual report contains a wealth of information about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. Although public, the reports are not readily available or sold outside Rome and are usually found in Vatican offices or Catholic university libraries.
A review of a decade`s worth of the reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See`s in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review.
Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren`t following church policy and putting accused clerics on trial in church tribunals.
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