In a period of just over two years, Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for molesting children, according to the AP, which says it obtained a document representing a rare collection of such data.
As of Friday afternoon, NPR hasn't independently confirmed the AP's information, not having seen the document. Here's a bit of context from NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Rome:
"If confirmed, the number of nearly 400 marks a sharp increase over the 170 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of defrocked priests.
"Before that, the Vatican only revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received."
The reported defrockings span a period from 2011-2012, meaning they would have taken place well before the election of Pope Francis in March of 2013. The document that allegedly lists the incidents is part of the Catholic Church's ongoing effort to cope with a legacy of child sex abuse.
From the AP:
"The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting to help the Holy See defend itself before a U.N. committee this week in Geneva.
"Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's U.N. ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of oftentimes pointed criticism and questioning from the U.N. human rights committee."
The news agency says it acquired the document about the pope's punishment of the priests Friday. The U.N. panel that Tomasi faced this week is the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is meeting in Geneva this month.
Sylvia reports that Tomasi "was subjected to a tough grilling" Thursday.
And she adds, "The Holy See was asked to provide data on the scale of clerical sex abuse, what it's done to address it, and what Pope Francis intends to do with a new commission he announced last month to find best practices to protect children from abuse and to help victims heal."