Fake News: Pope Francis Did NOT Forgive 4,444 Pedophile Priests In Australia

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

An article on YourNewsWire claims Pope Francis has "forgiven" the oddly specific number of 4,444 pedophile priests in Australia. As usual with articles on that site the headline "Pope Francis Forgives 4,444 Pedophile Priests In Australia" bears only limited resemblance to what really happened. It was published originally on February 27th 2018 (archived here) and opened:

An inquiry in Sydney has uncovered evidence that Pope Francis has forgiven and covered up the crimes of 4,444 pedophile priests in Australia.

The Austrailian commission reported that not only were the priests forgiven by the Vatican for their crimes, allegations were "swept under the carpet" and never reported to law enforcement.

Most of the article seems to be copy-pasted together from bits of a DW article (which is properly quoted as the source) about an inquiry in Sydney about sexual misconduct by Catholic priests between 1950 and 2010. It would be hard for Pope Francis to have turned a blind eye towards this since he has only been pope since 2013. He is not even mentioned in the source article (and the only mentions in the WND story are in the title and first sentence which basically invents the "forgiving" claim which is not backed up by any evidence or source material).


Furthermore the original story talks about 4,444 "incidents" over a 60-year period, not 4,444 priests. It does list a number of alleged perpetrators though:

The inquiry found that about 90 percent of the 1,880 alleged perpetrators were men, and the victims averaged around age 10 for girls and 11 for boys.

Note, that's "alleged" perpetrators. And it notes 10% of them are not even men which means they can't have been priests since the priesthood in the Catholic Church is reserved for men. Even assuming all the allegations are true and none of the accusers are lying that still means WND more that doubled the real number.

The source article ends on this note:

Of the 300 cases referred to police throughout the course of the four-year investigation, only 27 prosecutions have been able to move forward, with 75 more pending.

It is not clear if that means the accused were found innocent in two thirds of the cases or if prosecution simply wasn't attempted because the alleged facts happened too long ago or the perpetrator already passed away.

But it seems pretty clear Pope Francis has nothing to do with the whole thing and the number "4,444" is wildly inaccurate.

YourNewsWire has published several hoaxes and fake news articles in the past so anything they write or publish should be taken with a large grain of salt. Their Facebook page "The People's Voice" recently lost its verification checkmark according to a report from MMFA.

The Terms of Use of the site also make it clear they don't really stand behind the accuracy of any of their reporting:


The site was profiled in the Hollywood reporter where it was described as:

Your News Wire, a 3-year-old website of murky facts and slippery spin, is published by Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway -- a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 -- out of an apartment in L.A.'s historic El Royale.

RationalWiki described it as:

YourNewsWire (styled as YourNewsWire.com[1]) is an Los Angeles-based clickbait fake news website known for disseminating conspiracy theories and misleading information, contrary to its claimed motto ("News. Truth. Unfiltered").[1]

A while ago we also reported that YourNewsWire had rebranded itself as NewsPunch by changing its domain name in an apparent effort to evade filtering/blocking. It appears the site has changed back to it's old name in the mean time but you can still see the NewsPunch name in the contact email address in the footer.


  • 2018-08-22T13:18:13Z 2018-08-22T13:18:13Z
    The story now has gone viral on Alien Star too, despite having been debunked long ago.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion