(AP) — The Vatican has revealed that over the past decade, it has defrocked 848 priests who raped or molested children and sanctioned another 2,572 with lesser penalties, providing the first ever breakdown of how it handled the more than 3,400 cases of abuse reported to the Holy See since 2004.
The Vatican’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, released the figures during a second day of grilling by a U.N. committee monitoring implementation of the U.N. treaty.
The Vatican statistics are notable in that they show how the peaks in numbers over the years — both of cases reported and sanctions meted out — roughly parallels the years in which abuse scandals were in the news. And they showed that far from diminishing in recent years, the number of cases reported annually to the Vatican has remained a fairly constant 400 or so since 2010, the last year the scandal erupted in public around the globe. These cases, however, concern mostly abuse that occurred decades ago.
The Associated Press reported in January that then-Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked 384 priests in the final two years of his pontificate, citing documentation that Tomasi’s delegation had prepared for another U.N. hearing monitoring a treaty on the rights of children. That documentation matched data contained in the Vatican’s statistical yearbooks.
The latest spike began in 2010, when 464 cases were reported, more than twice the amount in 2009. Starting in that same year, the Vatican began resorting more and more to the lesser penalty of sentencing accused priests to a lifetime of penance and prayer rather than defrocking them. The Vatican often metes out such sentences for elderly or infirm priests, since defrocking them would essentially render them destitute in their final years.