A recent report from LifeSiteNews claims that a "highly placed Vatican source" said that a prominent Cardinal was demoted by Pope Francis for following protocol regarding sexually abusing prelates.
Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Gerhard Müller served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until Pope Francis suddenly removed him from office in 2017. Müller characterized the nature of his dismissal as "unacceptable" at the time.
"He did not give a reason," Müller said of his dismissal. "Just as he gave no reason for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months earlier."
According to the Vatican source, Müller and the competent priests working alongside him in the Curia were "dismissed by Pope Francis because they all had tried to follow loyally the Church's standing rules concerning abusive clergymen."
One example cited is the case of Don Mauro Inzoli, a priest who had been found guilty of abusing boys as young as 12. Historian Henry Sire writes in his book "The Dictator Pope" that, despite Inzoli being convicted by an ecclesiastical court of abusing minors in 2012, Pope Francis reduced Inzoli's sentence by reinstating his priestly functions while admonishing him with a "lifetime of prayer." Inzoli had also been ordered "to stay away from children, [while] giving him permission to celebrate Mass privately."
However, none of those (inarguably lax) terms were respected, according to Michael Dougherty. By 2015, Inzoli had returned to public ministry and even participated at a conference on the family in Lombardy, Italy. Only when an Italian court sentenced Inzoli to nine months in prison for the abuse of minors did the Vatican call for a new canonical trial against the disgraced prelate.
"Cardinal Müller [as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)] had always decidedly and most sharply followed up on these abuse cases, and that is why he was dismissed, just as his three good collaborators [the three CDF priests] were also dismissed," The Vatican source told LifeSiteNews.
In "The Dictator Pope," Henry Sire described an atmosphere in which the Pope's emphasis on "mercy" would allow abusive prelates to have sanctions lifted on them. Such was not the policy under Benedict XVI, who rarely granted clemency to abusive prelates:
It was rumored that Francis intended to revert competence for sex abuse cases from Cardinal Müller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Rota and Congregation for Clergy. Instead, Francis merely changed personnel. He summarily removed two Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith staffers in charge of handling sex abuse cases (declining to give any reasons to Cardinal Müller) and then dismissed Müller himself as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in July 2017
Winfield wrote that "two canon lawyers and a church official" told her the pope’s emphasis on "mercy" had created an environment in which "several" priests under canonical sanctions imposed by the CDF had appealed successfully to Francis for clemency through powerful curial connections. The unnamed official noted that such appeals had rarely been successful with Benedict XVI, who had removed over 800 priests from ministry.
The Vatican source also confirmed the testimony of Archbishop Vigano that Pope Benedict XVI did put restrictions on the sexually abusive Cardinal McCarrick, which other prelates in the Vatican were aware of.