Jewish Journal

Pope Benedict defrocked 384 priests in two years over sexual abuse allegations

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 18, 2014 | 6:22 am

The Catholic priest sexual abuse stories had kind of disappeared since Pope Benedict XVI stepped down and Pope Francis was elected. Francis has cut a liberal path that has made him a bit of a media darling. (Guilty.) But there is discouraging news to be had.

The Vatican admitted Friday, after inititally denying an AP report, that Benedict defrocked almost 400 priests in 2011 and 2012 over sexual abuse allegations. CNN reports:

Bishop Charles Scicluna, formerly the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy, said 384 priests left the priesthood – either voluntarily or not - in 2011 and 2012, the last two years of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.

In 2011, 125 priests were dismissed from ministry by the Vatican because of accusations they had sexually abused children, Scicluna told CNN on Friday, citing the "Activity of the Holy See," a kind of Vatican yearbook. The same year, 135  priests were "dispensed," meaning they voluntarily resigned, Scicluna said.

In 2012, 57 priests were removed from the priesthood and 67 resigned, Scicluna said. Scicluna, who is now an auxiliary bishop in Malta, was the Vatican's top prosecutor of sexually abusive clergy for a decade.

Unclear from reports I've seen is when (a) allegations against these priests were made and (b) when the alleged abuse occurred. The AP article notes that the spike in defrocked priests occurred a year after the Vatican double the statute of limitations (canonical law, I assume), encouraging earlier victims to come forward. That suggests the allegations were recent and some of the abuse was quite old.

But it also seems quite possible that some of the complaints against the now-defrocked priests had been kicking around for years and were finally resolved in 2011 and 2012. 

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