Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests over just two years for sexually molesting children, according to a document obtained by the AP. The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked. While it's not clear why the numbers spiked in 2011, it could be because 2010 saw a new explosion in the number of cases reported in the media in Europe and beyond.
The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting and was compiled to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee this week in Geneva. An AP review of the relevant reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See's in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict) took action after determining that bishops around the world weren't following church law to put accused clerics on trial in church tribunals. Bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials—or turn them into police. Click for the full story. Or to read why Benedict's successor, Pope Francis, might be a "political genius." (Read more Pope Francis stories.)