The Vatican has always remained quiet on how it handled the abuse scandal internally but now according to the Vatican’s U.N Ambassador, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Pope has defrocked 848 priests over the last ten years for child abuse.
Other lesser punishments have also been given to 2,572 priests for raping and molesting children. The Vatican explained that the lesser punishments were often the result of abuse investigations going back decades, mainly because the abusive priests were elderly or infirm. Tomasi said that the lesser sanctions still meant that the priests were “put in a place where he doesn’t have any contact with the children.” The 2,572 includes punishments handed down by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
A U.N. (United Nations) committee is now investigating the Vatican to determine whether it broke the international body’s treaty banning torture. The worldwide problem of child abuse within the Church could, the U.N. believes, meet the definition of torture as laid out in the treaty. The Vatican has responded, arguing that it is only responsible for enforcing the treaty within the boundaries of the Vatican City, and not in the Catholic church’s global presence.
– In 2001, the Vatican began to require bishops to report cases of abuse to Rome. In 2010, the church told bishops to also report those cases to the police.
– Until 2002 it was commonplace for bishops to quietly reassign priests accused of child abuse without reporting them to the police.
– Since 2004, the Vatican received 3,400 credible cases of abuse.
– There was a huge spike in the sanctions, starting in 2010. Before that, about 100 priests per year were sanctioned in this way.
The Associated Press notes that there are fluctuations in the number of reported cases and disciplined priests year-to year. Although the Vatican has long faced criticism for the existence of the widespread abuse itself, it faced sharper questioning over its institutional efforts to keep the scandal quiet for as long as possible. The Vatican statistics reported by the Associated Press did not contain whether the defrocked priests also faced legal investigations.
Pope Francis was relatively quiet on the issue of child abuse by clergy for most of his first year as Pope. However, this April, he asked for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children during what were apparently off-script remarks at a speech to a Catholic children’s NGO.
Earlier this year, the Vatican provided documents to the U.N. during a previous round of questioning by a different panel that indicated it had defrocked 384 priests, in 2011 and 2012, in connection with the scandal. While the Holy See admitted that the figure was accurate, they noted that it was “incomplete.”