Pope Benedict XVI Defrocked Nearly 400 Priests in 2 Years for Molesting Children

Catholic Church tries to defend itself before U.N. Human Rights Panel.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims, for the last time as head of the Catholic Church, from the window of Castel Gandolfo where he will start his retirement today on February 28, 2013, in Rome, Italy.
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Pope Benedict XVI removed nearly 400 priests from their posts between 2011 and 2012 on allegations they molested children, a new report reveals.

The Associated Press obtained the records Friday, which showed the scope of the action the Vatican has taken to punish pedophile priests. It also reveals an increase in the number of defrocked priests from 2008 to 2009 when only 171 lost their positions.

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The statistics were part of a broader report the Holy See is presenting in its defense as it goes in front of a U.N. human rights panel in Geneva this week. The presentation marks the first time the church has been questioned publicly on the sexual abuse scandal that spanned decades and rocked the church across the world. On Thursday, the U.N. committee finished its investigation into whether the church covered up the scandal and violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 2002, more than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse have been brought to the Vatican's attention. Yet, many human rights groups allege they discouraged reporting the crimes and moved much too slowly to take action against the perpetrators. "Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programmes, in religious organizations structures," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said before the panel this week.

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While the Vatican has said it has a zero tolerance for sex crimes against children, it has also argued it does not take responsibility for priests' actions when they occur outside the Vatican. "Priests are citizens of their own states, and they fall under the jurisdiction of their own country," Tomasi said, according to the Associated Press.

Pope Francis has changed the face of the Catholic Church since his election in March with his comments on gay marriage and abortion, but the panel hearing could affect his populous appeal.

Even before the numbers of defrocked priests were released, Pope Francis began working to outline a code of professionalism for priests, cardinals and bishops to report and handle sex abuse allegations in the future.

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