UK & World News
Pope Defrocked 400 Priests Over 'Child Abuse'
The former Pope, Benedict XVI, defrocked nearly 400 priests over a two-year period for allegedly raping and molesting children, according to a leaked Vatican document.
The statistics for 2011-12 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been dismissed.
"The document shows that in two years alone, from 2011 to 2012, as 800 new cases of abuse came into the Vatican for review, the Pope actually defrocked 400 priests and the Vatican sent another 400 cases to either be tried by a Church tribunal or to be dealt with administratively," said Rome Acting Bureau Chief and Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield.
Before 2008, the Vatican had only publicly revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received.
An internal Vatican document prepared to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee hearing this week in Geneva compiled the statistics over the course of several years.
Analysis of the raw data cited in that document, obtained by the Associated Press news agency, confirmed the figures.
An AP review of a decade's worth of the reference books shows an evolution in the Holy See's in-house procedures to discipline paedophiles 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 were not following church policy and putting accused clerics on trial in church tribunals.
Instead, bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials - or turn them over to police.
For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children.
One of the chief accusations against the Vatican from victims is that bishops put the church's procedures ahead of civil law enforcement by suggesting that victims keep accusations quiet while they were dealt with internally.
The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state.
There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.
The Vatican insists nothing in its church process prevented victims from going to police.
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