An Archbishop gave the first real explanation of what the Vatican does with priests who are accused of raping or molesting children during a UN committee hearing on torture today.

Archbishop Tomasi, the Vatican's U.N. ambassador in Geneva, provided the committee with the outcomes of 3,400 rape and molestation cases reported to the Vatican in the last decade.

Of those 3,400 reports, 848 priests were defrocked and the remaining 2,572 were sanctioned to lesser penalties. Tomasi apparently stressed that the sanctioned priests were "put in a place where he doesn't have any contact with the children."

Apparently the lesser sanctions are commonly given to older priests, who tended to have committed the abusive acts decades ago.

The reports appear to spike around years with big priest sex scandals, and have hovered around an average of 400 reports a year since 2010. Because the data provided today only covers the Holy See and not local tribunals, the AP notes that the total number is likely much higher.

Legal experts say Tomasi, who appeared to implicitly agree with the proposition that sex abuse could be considered a form of torture, may have opened the door to some major legal ramifications for the Church. Because many countries consider torture outside the statute of limitations, victims might be able to circumvent expired abuse claims by framing them as a torture issue.

[image via Getty]