In spite of an earlier Vatican statement denying an Associated Press story that almost 400 priests had been defrocked for the sexual abuse of minors during 2011/2012, a bishop with knowledge of the statistics says the AP story was correct.
The Vatican spokesman also confirmed the AP story in response to an NCR inquiry.
Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who served for 10 years as the Vatican's top sex abuse prosecutor and who represented the Vatican during a Jan. 16 hearing of the U.N.'s Committee of the Rights of the Child, told NCR that in 2011 and 2012, 384 priests were either voluntarily dismissed from the clerical state or had laicization imposed as a penalty in cases related to sexual abuse.
Scicluna spoke to NCR Jan. 17 by phone.
Based on information provided in the published volume "Activity of the Holy See," according to Scicluna, there were 135 priests in 2011 who voluntarily requested dismissal from the clerical state and 125 for whom laicization was imposed as a penalty.
For 2012, the numbers were 67 voluntary dismissals and 57 cases in which laicization was imposed.
In total, that comes to 384 clergy over the two year period who were removed from the priesthood in cases related to the sexual abuse of minors.
Earlier this evening, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi initially denied that report, saying that it was based on confusion between cases reported to the Vatican and the end result of those cases.
Lombardi later told NCR, however, that the AP report was "correct" and not based on "a confusion with reported cases."
(Follow John Allen on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr)