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Müller was also allegedly lax in addressing sexual abuse cases that have come before the Vatican.

Pope removes German cardinal as sex abuse crisis catches up - Comment on 2017 July 2

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Mrs Collins resigned her position on the board in frustration at Vatican officials’ resistance to safeguarding reforms, including a refusal by Cardinal Müller’s department to create a new tribunal to judge bishops who act inappropriately in sexual abuse cases. Read more:

 

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Pope removes German cardinal as sex abuse crisis catches up

Pope Francis sacked the head of the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases Saturday, just days after he released another top Vatican cardinal to return home to stand trial for alleged sexual assault.

The developments underscored how the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis has caught up with Francis, threatening to tarnish his legacy over a series of questionable appointments, decisions and oversights in his four-year papacy.

Perhaps sensing a need to change course, Francis declined to renew the mandate of German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that processes and evaluates all cases of priests accused of raping or molesting minors.

During Mueller’s five-year term, the congregation amassed a 2,000-case backlog and came under blistering criticism from Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, who had been tapped by Francis in 2014 to advise the church on caring for abuse victims and protecting children from pedophile priests.

Collins resigned from the papal commission in March, citing the "unacceptable"¯ level of resistance from Mueller’s office to heeding the commission’s proposals.

In May, Francis said her criticism of the slow pace in processing abuse cases was justified and announced he was adding more staff to handle the overload. Earlier this year he also named Cardinal Sean O’Malley as a member of the congregation in hopes of ensuring better cooperation.

Mueller’s ouster was the second major Vatican shake-up this week.

On Thursday, Francis granted another Vatican hardliner, Cardinal George Pell, a leave of absence to return to his native Australia to face trial on multiple charges of sexual assault stemming from years ago.

Pell has denied the charges. Still, Francis has come under criticism for having named him to the powerful position of the Vatican’s money czar in 2014 in the first place, given that accusations of wrongdoing had dogged him even then. Pell has been widely denounced at home for mishandling abuse cases while he was a bishop and of having treated victims harshly in seeking to protect the church from abuse-related civil litigation.

"In the church’s current emergency, with its third-ranking prelate soon to appear in an Australian court on child abuse charges, Pope Francis needs a CDF prefect who will work with Cardinal Sean O’Malley on the church’s abuse crisis, not against him,"¯ said Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, an online resource of abuse documentation.

Mueller and Pell were two most powerful cardinals in the Vatican, after the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Their absences, coupled with Francis’ earlier demotion of arch-conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke as the Vatican’s chief justice, will likely create a power vacuum for the conservative wing in the Holy See hierarchy.

The week’s events could be seen as an attempt by Francis to turn the page, given his legacy has already been sullied by repeated failings to make good on his "zero tolerance" pledge for abuse.

Take for example the case of the Rev. Mauro Inzoli, a well-known Italian priest defrocked by the Vatican for having abused children as young as 12. He had his sentence reduced on appeal to a lifetime of penance and prayer in 2014 after what his bishop said was a show of mercy from the pope.

But in November, an Italian judge convicted Inzoli of abusing five children aged 12-16 and sentenced him to four years, nine months in prison. The Vatican opened a new church trial against him and his bishop announced this week that he had been definitively defrocked.

 

Pope dismisses Cardinal Mueller, turbulent week for Vatican

Mueller had also been caught up in the controversy surrounding the church's response to the clerical sex abuse scandal after his department was accused of obstructing justice.

Mueller had also been caught up in the controversy surrounding the church's response to the clerical sex abuse scandal after his department was accused of obstructing Francis's efforts to stop internal cover-ups of abuse.

"In space of three days, two leading Vatican cardinals out of their posts," said Vatican watcher Christopher Lamb, after Vatican finance chief George Pell was charged with historical sexual assault this week.

In March a prominent church reform group called for Mueller's resignation after accusations that senior officials had wilfully ignored Fancis's decision to create a new tribunal to judge bishops who cover up sexual abuse.

Irish survivor of abuse Marie Collins, who quit the pope's commission on the protection of minors in disgust, singled out Mueller's ministry, which is in charge of the clerical abuse dossier.

The German cardinal retorted in an open letter that the tribunal had only been a "project" which Vatican departments felt would needlessly duplicate initiatives already in place to deal with wayward bishops.

His dismissal comes at the end of a turbulent week in the heartland of the Roman Catholic faith, following the charges of sexual offences brought against the Vatican finance chief on Thursday.

The Australian cardinal, 76, was granted a leave of absence by the pope to defend his name after he became the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged with criminal offences linked to the Church's long-running sexual abuse scandal.

 

Pope dismisses his doctrinal chief, Cardinal Müller, after uneasy relationship

In recent years, the doctrine of the faith department has also become a clearing house for cases of priests accused of sexual abuse while also assisting with bishops’ conferences’ drafting of safeguarding guidelines.

In March the congregation was criticised by Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor, for a lack of co-operation with a papal commission into child protection which she was part of.

Mrs Collins resigned her position on the board in frustration at Vatican officials’ resistance to safeguarding reforms, including a refusal by Cardinal Müller’s department to create a new tribunal to judge bishops who act inappropriately in sexual abuse cases. She was also disappointed by the congregation's refusal to acknowledge letters written to them by victims of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Müller hit back in an interview that it was for local bishops to reply to letters and said the new tribunal was only a "project." Mrs Collins then wrote back an open letter to him challenging the claims.

During an inflight press conference returning from Portugal in May, the Pope described Mrs Collins as a "good woman" and that he was bringing in new personnel to handle abuse cases.

 

Pope Francis drops conservative German Cardinal Müller for more liberal option

The pope and the cardinal clashed over the various reform measures, including the hot-button issue of annulments. Cardinal Müller was also allegedly lax in responding to sex abuse claims brought before the Vatican.

Müller's ouster was the second major shakeup at the Vatican this week. On Thursday, Francis granted Vatican hardliner Cardinal George Pell a leave of absence to return to his native Australia to face trial on sexual assault charges.

The absence of Müller and Pell, the two most powerful cardinals in the Vatican, after the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, will likely create a power vacuum for the conservative wing in the Holy See hierarchy.

Müller was also allegedly lax in addressing sexual abuse cases that have come before the Vatican. During his tenure victims from Latin America, Europe and beyond came forward to press their cases.

Last year the pope confirmed there was a 2,000-case backlog, and he set about naming new officials in the congregation's discipline section to process the overload.

 

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