WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI has defrocked a US priest accused of sexually molesting a teenage boy more than 30 years ago, the disgraced cleric's Ohio diocese said Thursday.

"The Vatican has notified the Diocese of Youngstown that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the request of Thomas Crum and removed him from the priesthood," a statement sent by officials at the diocese to AFP said.

Crum was removed from active ministry last year after a former student at a high school where he worked in the mid-1970s accused Crum of sexually abusing him.

According to reports in the Ohio press, Crum has admitted to sexually abusing a boy at the school. The allegations were reported to local police and county prosecutors but no charges were brought because the statute of limitations had run out, the Tribune Chronicle newspaper said.

The scandal of Roman Catholic clergy who sexually abused youngsters came to a head in the United States with the admission in 2002 by the archbishop of Boston that he had protected a priest he knew to have molested children.

In recent months, the sex scandal has dragged in the Roman Catholic church in Europe, with allegations or pedophile priests coming from Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and Austria.

Victims' groups have called on the Vatican to get tough and fire bishops who shelter predator priests, and also want abusive clergy to be handed over to the secular authorities for punishment.