Defrocking of nearly 400 priests in two years for sex abuse proves Pope Benedict’s determination to protect children

Statistics compiled from Vatican documents by Associated Press prove Pope Benedict’s determination to protect children from paedophile priests, and expose as untrue the accusation that the Holy Father conspired to cover up child abuse. Pope Benedict referred to the sexual abuse of children by clergy as ‘filth’. Between 2011 and 2012 Pope Benedict laicised nearly 400 priests for sexually abusing children.

AP reports:

‘In his last two years as pope, Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children, more than twice as many as the two years that preceded a 2010 explosion of sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond, according to a document obtained Friday by The Associated Press and an analysis of Vatican statistics.

The data — 260 priests defrocked in 2011 and 124 in 2012, a total of 384 — represented a dramatic increase over the 171 priests defrocked in 2008 and 2009.

It was the first compilation of the number of priests forcibly removed for sex abuse by the Vatican’s in-house procedures — and a canon lawyer said the real figure is likely far higher, since the numbers don’t include sentences meted out by diocesan courts.

The spike started a year after the Vatican decided to double the statute of limitations on the crime, enabling victims who were in their late 30s to report abuse committed against them when they were children.’ [...]

Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren’t 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. [...]

According to the 2001 norms Ratzinger pushed through and subsequently updated, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews each case sent to Rome and then tells bishops how to proceed, either with an administrative process against the priest if the evidence is overwhelming or a church trial. At every step of the way the priest is allowed to defend himself.

A total of 555 priests were defrocked from 2008 to 2012, according to the Vatican figures, though data from 2010 was not included.

The Rev. Davide Cito, a canon lawyer at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University who has helped prosecute abuse cases for the Vatican, said the real number may be far higher. The reason? The figures in the Vatican’s annual report only refer to the outcome of cases sent to the pope.

Those are the slam-dunk cases where there was so much evidence against the priest that a church trial wasn’t necessary, or cases where the priest himself asked to be relieved of his celibacy vow and position as a prelate because of the accusations. But individual dioceses can also remove priests from the clerical state as the result of a canonical trial in which the priest is found guilty, Cito said. ”There can also be more without the intervention of the pope,” he said. “They don’t tell us  the number, so there’s no way to know.”

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.

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.

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

Protect the Pope comment: In September 2013 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI repudiated the accusation that he covered up child abuse by priests as baseless. The Holy Father said, ‘ “I never tried to cover up these things. That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering. On the one hand we must accept that suffering, and on the other, at the same time, we must do everything possible so that such cases aren’t repeated. It’s also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories. In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.” These statistics complied by AP prove the truth of Pope Benedict’s words. And Ernie Allen, president of the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children confirms Pope Benedict’s contention that child abuse is not ‘a nastiness specific to Catholicism, when he told Newsweek in 2010, ‘“We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else. I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others.”

Pope Benedict XVI has referred to the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy as ‘filth’  in his interview with Peter Seewald:

‘Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too.’ (Light of the World, p. 23).

Again and again Pope Benedict has unequivocally admitted that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy is a terrible evil that has not only effected those involved but the whole Church. In as much as Catholic priests celebrate the essential act of the Church, the Blessed Eucharist, this sin has been found in the heart of the Church. Through this open admission Pope Benedict shows once again his personal commitment to unflinchingly speak the truth about the sex abuse scandal in order to help the Church purify herself from this filth.

Pope Benedict XVI directly challenged priests and religious who committed the crime of child sexual abuse in his letter to the faithful of Ireland:

‘You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.’

21 comments to Defrocking of nearly 400 priests in two years for sex abuse proves Pope Benedict’s determination to protect children

  • Rifleman819

    Deacon Nick ,
    The very papers that condemned the previous Holy Father for allegedly doing nothing -now feign shock at the extent of the phenomenon.

    As always it was never a vast conspiracy -except by the paedophile networks themselves…..and for most of the secular press/media the Catholic church as its most stubborn cultural enemy -will never receive a fair and balanced hearing anyway.
    It has been our useless/non-existent PR factual rebuttals that have done the damage-smears and malicious allegations will continue as part of general anti-Catholicism we know and love so well.

    • Augustine

      I suspect it was more than simple anti-Catholicism.

      Cardinal Ratzinger had defended Catholic teaching on faith & morals while he was head of the CDF.

      So he had become a hate-figure for people who disagreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching – both amongst anti-Catholics but also (sadly) amongst some Catholics.

      And it got really personal – because he was seen to be personally responsible for the Church’s teaching (as if he had invented it himself!).

      And he was also (incorrectly) perceived to be personally responsible for the scandal of clerical abuse.

      So if he could be personally discredited, it was thought that this would also diminish the credibility of his teaching.

      And it was not just anti-Catholics but also some Catholics who wished to see this teaching discredited.

      In fact as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was only put in charge of dealing with the clerical abuse scandals in the last few years of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate.

      Cardinal Ratzinger was hindered in his task – both by the incompetents who had previously been in charge – and by others in the Vatican who tried to stop him sacking immoral & evil clergy.

      There WAS a scandal in the Vatican – but it did not involve Cardinal Ratzinger. See

      But I suspect that a lot of the time, it was just lazy reporting:

      • Augustine

        But I suspect that a lot of the time, it was just lazy reporting:

        (Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge of the CDF) + (There was a child abuse scandal in the Church) = (Cardinal Ratzinger was to blame for the abuse scandal)

  • Wake Up England

    I wonder how many priests this Pope has fired?

    I also often wonder what is in those red-bound books which were locked up with such secrecy by B16, and of which nothing has been heard since?

  • Owen Meany

    Has the evidence in these ‘slam dunk’ cases been passed on to the relevant law enforcement authorities in the countries that these priests served in?

  • Joseph Matthew

    This week we have had how many sex abuse allegations in the news? No excuses and thank God for Pope Benedict but the real problems are in secular society.

  • BJC

    I remember seeing this story yesterday on the BBC’s website. True to form, instead of setting the record straight and retracting their previous pillorying of Benedict for doing nothing about the abuse scandals, and nay even being implicated in the cover up, they framed it terms of “UN report, let’s go and get them (the Vatican)”. The Tablet of course has done the same lacking any basic standards of journalistic integrity, but then again we’ve come to expect that from Catherine Pepinster the editor. Sins against the 8th commandment have never meant much to her, particularly when she’s got an opportunity to trash the people she hates. The conclusion is that journalists think everyone is thick, and can’t see their little manipulations.

  • Roger

    Deacon Nick,
    I welcome your comprehensive survey of the statistics concerning abuse. As a parent and a teacher my concerns remain that those defrocked priests are, I assume, still free to continue their civil crimes. Perhaps many of their parishioners remain unaware of the reasons for the disappearance of their priest. As a senior teacher I have had to respond to cases of reported abuse. In EVERY case the department of Education, the police and social services have been informed, even if in the end the accusations proved to be unsubstantiated. What steps are being taken by all Churches/Religions to ensure that cases are always reported to the civil authorities?

  • William

    Pope Benedict removed 400 evil priests from ministry. Yet, because he wore red shoes and a mozetta (like every pope before him did)was portrayed as the most evil, uncaring pope since Alexander VI (how really wasn’t that bad, most of it was lies and gossip, but anyway). And people are so stupid as to believe the media lies about Pope Benedict, a gentle, truly humble servant of God. But people are easily led like sheep. For instance they think it a humble act when someone who checked into a hotel with a credit card goes back to pay in cash instead of paying the bill that would have been mailed anyway, and they believe this nonsense. People really are dumb like sheep, they believe whatever the media tells them to believe.

  • Rifleman819

    Deacon Nick ,
    On the front page of the “Observer” today…….Savile “abused 1000 teenagers on BBC premises.”

    The BBC launched a war-to-the-knife campaign against the church over the allegations of clerical child abuse…..whilst at the same time their own hierarchy knew about what was going on with Savile and his associates, a number of whom appear to have been on the BBC payroll.

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”-as Juvenal once said, eh?

    • Joseph Matthew

      Points well made. Who are in the news with allegations now? Celebrities,those involed in the pop music industry etc
      If these people are found guilty, will the organizations behind them be lambasted?

  • Rifleman819

    Joseph ,

    Yes exactly…….but the secular world’s agitprop animus with Catholicism will never go away and I must admit our own rebuttals with facts have been useless… sometimes one wonders whether any sensible engagement with journalists “with an edge” will ever happen?

    We are all medieval bigots in their world view so why bother?

    • Augustine

      Justin Martyr bothered.

      He published his Apologia precisely to refuse false allegations.

      We will not convince the bigots – but most people are not bigots.

  • Augustine

    Fr Tim Finigan has posted a link to a book review he did on Saturday, 28 August 2010 – just before Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland and England in 2010.


    The book he reviewed was called “Attacco a Ratzinger” (meaning “Attack on Ratzinger”).

    It identified three ingredients to the various PR crises that faced Pope Benedict:

    •The media taking particular quotations out of context and writing or broadcasting inflammatory copy
    •Catholics (including priests and bishops) who are hostile to the Holy Father
    •The weakness of the response of the media operation of the Holy See

    It is astonishing that this book was not translated into English.

    Cui bono?

  • Augustine

    Fr Tim Finigan has posted a link to a book review he did on Saturday, 28 August 2010 – just before Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland and England in 2010.

    The book he reviewed was called “Attacco a Ratzinger” (meaning “Attack on Ratzinger”).

    It identified three ingredients to the various PR crises that faced Pope Benedict:

    •The media taking particular quotations out of context and writing or broadcasting inflammatory copy
    •Catholics (including priests and bishops) who are hostile to the Holy Father
    •The weakness of the response of the media operation of the Holy See

    It is astonishing that this book was not translated into English.

    Cui bono?

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