2, July 2017
Pope Francis has refused to extend the mandate of the head of the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases, replacing the conservative cardinal who is said to have been “at odds” with the pontiff’s attempts to create a more inclusive Church. In a brief Vatican statement on Saturday, Pope Francis appointed the deputy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, as the new head of the office, declining to renew the five-year mandate of Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, its former head.
The 69-year-old Mueller allegedly had frequent clashes with the Pope over key reform issues, criticizing the pontiff’s openness to allowing civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. The German cardinal had also censured parts of a 2016 papal treatise called “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), a cornerstone document of Francis’ attempts to make the 1.2 billion-member Church more inclusive and less condemning, according to Reuters.
Mueller’s successor, the 73-year-old Ladaria from Spain had been appointed to the CDF by former Pope Benedict in 2008 and is said to be a soft-spoken person. “They (Ladaria and the Pope) speak the same language, and Ladaria is someone who is meek. He does not agitate the pope and does not threaten him,” said a priest who works in the Vatican and knows both Mueller and Ladaria, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Clearly, the Pope and Cardinal Mueller have not been on the same page for five years.”
The head of the CDF enjoys the most important position in the Vatican hierarchy after the Secretary of State, and most incumbents keep the post until they retire at the traditional age of 75. Mueller had been appointed to the powerful department by former Pope Benedict in 2012. In another major shakeup of the Vatican’s administration, the Pope granted a Vatican finance chief, Cardinal George Pell, a leave of absence from his position to return to his native Australia to face trial on sexual assault charges.
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals in the past few years, involving allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests to protect pedophiles and the reputation of the Church. The issue of abuses being concealed by the Church has left many child rights defenders, including Christians, disgruntled by the Church and has put Church authorities on the defensive.
Pope Francis, who was appointed in 2013 with a plan to overhaul the Vatican, has warned that there will be “no privileges” for bishops when it comes to child sex offenses. The pontiff also promised more action in response to accusations of cover-up and excessive leniency by the Vatican.