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Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See (Vatican) to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, arrives prior the UN torture committee hearing on the Vatican, at the headquarters of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the Palais Wilson, in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, May 5, 2014. The UN Committee Against Torture hearings the Holy See for the first time for consider whether the church's handling of child sexual abuse complaints has violated its obligations against subjecting minors to torture and on the Vatican on its efforts to stamp out child sex abuse by priests. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
Vatican defrocks 848 priests in 10 years over abuse
First Published May 06 2014 11:58 am • Last Updated May 06 2014 12:07 pm

Geneva • The Vatican released comprehensive statistics for the first time Tuesday on how it has disciplined priests accused of raping and molesting children, saying 848 priests have been defrocked and another 2,572 given lesser sanctions during the past decade.

The Vatican’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, revealed the figures during a second day of grilling by a U.N. committee monitoring implementation of the U.N. treaty against torture.

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Tomasi insisted the convention applied only inside the tiny Vatican City state. But he nevertheless released statistics about how the Holy See has adjudicated sex abuse cases globally, and significantly, he didn’t dispute the committee’s contention that sexual violence against children can be considered torture.

Tomasi said that since 2004, more than 3,400 credible cases of abuse had been referred to the Vatican, including 401 cases in 2013 alone. He said that during the past decade, 848 priests had been defrocked, or returned to the lay state by the pope. Another 2,572 were sentenced to a lifetime of penance and prayer or some other lesser sanction, which is often used when the accused priest is elderly or infirm.

Acknowledging the high number of priests sanctioned with the lesser punishment, Tomasi said it still amounted to disciplinary action and that the abuser is "put in a place where he doesn’t have any contact with the children."

The Associated Press in January reported that then-Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked 384 priests in the final two years of his pontificate, citing documentation Tomasi’s delegation had prepared for another U.N. committee hearing that matched data contained in the Vatican’s statistical yearbooks.

Tomasi told the AP on Tuesday that those figures from January were "incomplete" and that the data he provided the torture committee — the first ever year-by-year breakdown of how cases were adjudicated — was complete.

He told the committee that "there is no climate of impunity but there is a total commitment to clean the house" and prevent more abuse.

"We have crossed a threshold so to say in our evolution of the approach to these problems," he concluded. "It’s clear that the issue of sexual abuse of children, which is a worldwide plague and scourge, has been addressed in the last 10 years by the church in a systematic, comprehensive, constructive way."


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