Pope gets serious about sex abuse claims

2017-07-01 22:46
(Andrew Medichini, AP)

(Andrew Medichini, AP)

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Vatican City - Pope Francis on Saturday declined to renew the mandate of the Vatican's conservative doctrine chief, tapping instead a deputy to lead the powerful congregation that handles sex abuse cases and guarantees Catholic orthodoxy around the world.

In a short statement, the Vatican said Francis thanked Cardinal Gerhard Mueller for his service. Mueller's five-year term ends this weekend and he turns 75 in December, the normal retirement age for bishops.

Power vacuum

Francis could have kept him on, but declined to do so. The two have clashed over the pope's opening to allow civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Mueller has insisted they cannot, given church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The Jesuit pope tapped Jesuit Monsignor Luis Ferrer, the current No 2 in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to succeed Mueller.

It was the second major shake-up this week, after Francis granted another Vatican hardliner, Cardinal George Pell, a leave of absence to return to his native Australia to face trial on sexual assault charges.

Mueller and Pell are two of the most powerful cardinals in the Vatican, after the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Their absences will likely create something of a power vacuum for the conservative wing in the Holy See hierarchy.

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI tapped Mueller, a fellow German, to lead the congregation in 2012. Benedict took a hard line against clerical sex abuse during his time as prefect of the congregation himself, and later as pope, defrocking hundreds of priests accused of raping and molesting children.

New officials

It was also Benedict who insisted that bishops around the world send all cases of credibly accused priests to the congregation for processing, a reform that followed revelations that bishops had for decades moved paedophiles around from parish to parish rather than sanction or report them to police.

During Mueller's tenure, the sex abuse caseload piled up as more and more victims came forward from Latin America, Europe and beyond. Last year, Francis confirmed there was a 2 000-case backlog and set about naming new officials in the congregation's discipline section to process the overload.

Read more on:    pope francis  |  vatican city  |  sex abuse

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