Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of a mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican February 9, 2013. Pope Benedict will step down as head of the Catholic Church on Feb. 28, the Vatican confirmed on February 11, 2013.
Documents released by the Associated Press suggest that from 2011 to 2012 Pope Benedict worked to defrock nearly 400 priests on claims that the men molested children – news that comes in the aftermath of the U.N.’s harsh critique of the Catholic Church’s handling of the global sex abuse scandal on Thursday.
The reports also demonstrate a shift in the Church’s approach towards handling sex abuse cases, which historically were dealt with by switching the parish where the priest served, rather than involving local law enforcement or Vatican tribunals.
But in 2001, former Pope Benedict, then a cardinal, mandated that accused priests be put on trial in church tribunals, with a maximum penalty of being defrocked.
In 2005, the Vatican began reporting numbers of defrocked priests and authorized Church trials against 21 accused clerics. Since 2005, the numbers began to increase to between 300-400 cases a year in 2007 and 2008.
In 2010, following a wave of media coverage of sex abuse scandals in Europe, 527 cases were reported, though the Vatican did not report how many priests had been defrocked. In 2011 and 2012, however, 260 and 124 priests were defrocked respectively.
The report, prepared by the Vatican, was put together as part of its testimony to the U.N. committee on Thursday, reported the Associated Press and was released a day after the group harshly critiqued the Catholic Church’s handling of the global sex abuse scandal.