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Sexual abuse: Pope defrocked 400 priests in 2 years


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The Congregation started reporting numbers only in 2005, which is where the spreadsheet prepared for the Vatican delegation in Geneva starts.

In 2005, the Congregation authorized bishops to launch church trials against 21 accused clerics, and reported that its appeals court had handled two cases. It didn’t say what the verdicts were, according to the annual reports cited by the spreadsheet.

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In 2006, the number of canonical trials authorized doubled to 43 and eight appeals cases were heard. And for the first time, the Congregation revealed publicly the number of cases reported to it: 362, though that figure included a handful of non-abuse related canonical crimes.

A similar number of cases were reported in 2007 — 365 — but again the Congregation didn’t specify how many were abuse-related. Vatican officials, however, have said that it received between 300-400 cases a year in the years following the 2002 explosion of sex abuse cases in the U.S.

By 2008, the tone of the Vatican’s entry had changed. Ratzinger, by then Pope Benedict XVI, traveled to the scandal-hit United States that year and was quoted in the annual report as telling reporters en route that he was "mortified" by the scale of abuse and simply couldn’t comprehend "how priests could fail in such a way."

That year’s entry was also notable for another reason: For the first time, an official Vatican document made clear that nothing in the church process precluded victims from reporting abuse to police.

There was also another first in 2008, a critical year as abuse lawsuits in the U.S. naming the Holy See as a defendant were heating up. For the first time, the Vatican revealed the number of priests who had been defrocked: 68.

A year later, the number of defrocked priests rose to 103. The total for the two years, 2008 and 2009, was 171.

Another milestone in the sex abuse saga came in 2010, with hundreds of cases reported in the media across Europe and beyond. Some 527 cases were reported to the Congregation alone. No figures were given that year for the number of defrocked priests; instead, new church laws were put in place to extend the statute of limitations from 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday to 20 years.

By 2011, with the new extended statute of limitations and the Vatican norms codified, the number of defrocked priests rose dramatically: 260 in one year alone, while 404 new cases of child abuse were reported. In addition, lesser penalties were imposed on 419 other priests for abuse-related crimes.


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In 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, the number of defrockings dropped to 124, with another 418 new cases reported.

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Heilprin reported from Geneva.



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