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848 priests defrocked

The Vatican released comprehensive statistics for the first time Tuesday on how it has disciplined priests accused of raping and molesting children, saying 848 priests have been defrocked and another 2,572 given lesser sanctions over the past decade.

The Vatican's U.N. ambassador in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, revealed the figures during a second day of grilling by a U.N. committee monitoring implementation of the U.N. treaty against torture.

Tomasi insisted the convention applied only inside the tiny Vatican City state. But he nevertheless released statistics about how the Holy See has adjudicated sex abuse cases globally, and significantly, he didn't dispute the committee's contention that sexual violence against children can be considered torture.

Tomasi said that since 2004, more than 3,400 credible cases of abuse had been referred to the Vatican, including 401 cases in 2013 alone. He said that over the last decade, 848 priests had been defrocked, or returned to the lay state by the pope. Another 2,572 were sentenced to a lifetime of penance and prayer or some other lesser sanction, which is often used when the accused priest is elderly or infirm.

Acknowledging the high number of priests sanctioned with the lesser punishment, Tomasi said it still amounted to disciplinary action and that the abuser is "just put in a place where he doesn't have any contact with the children."

The Associated Press in January reported that then-Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked 384 priests in the final two years of his pontificate, citing documentation Tomasi's delegation had prepared for another U.N. committee hearing that matched data contained in the Vatican's statistical yearbooks.

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