VATICAN CITY (AP) — A document obtained by The Associated Press shows Pope Benedict defrocked nearly 400 priests over just two years -- 2011 and 2012 -- for sexually molesting children.
The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting and was compiled to help officials defend the church before a U.N. committee this week in Geneva. The panel demanded answers about thousands of cases of sexual assault around the world.
The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, there was an explosion in the number of cases reported in the media in Europe and beyond.
For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children. Bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials — or turn them into police.
For the first time, an official Vatican document in 2008 made it clear that nothing in the church process precluded victims from reporting abuse to police.