Pope Benedict XVI laicized 400 priests worldwide during the last two years of his papacy, which ended in February 2013. According to documents released by Vatican authorities, this figure is more than two times as many as the two years that preceded a flurry of sex abuse accusations in Europe and elsewhere. According to the report, 260 priests were laicized in 2011 and another 124 in 2012 for a total of 384. This was a significant increase over the 171 priests laicized between 2008 and 2009. A total of 555 priests were defrocked from 2008 to 2012, according to the Vatican figures. Data from 2010 was not included.
AP wire service indicated that the figures for the last years of Pope Benedict’s papacy may be far higher. The figures do not include ecclesiastical punishments handed down by diocesan tribunals. The increase in the number of laicizations started once Vatican authorities began to double the statute of limitations on crimes committed against children, thus enabling victims who were in their late 30s to report sex abuse committed against them during their childhood years.
While the Vatican had made some data available in previous annual reports, but a report prepared by the Holy See to the United Nations offered a compilation of several years. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who represents the Holy See to the U.N. at Geneva, offered the data during a day of questioning on January 16. Tomasi reported that 418 new child sex abuse cases were conveyed to the Vatican in 2012. The figures were confirmed by Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi.
In 2001, as the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict began to take action once it became apparent that Catholic bishops were not putting priests accused of sexual abuse on trial in Church tribunals. In violation of Catholic canon law, offending priests had been transferred from parish to parish and diocese to diocese instead. Over the decade before his election to the papacy, policy towards sex abuse accusations evolved. By 2008, when he visited the United States, Pope Benedict told reporters that he was "mortified" by the incomprehensible crimes committed by clerics against innocent people.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.