Pope Francis has dismissed a conservative bishop from a Paraguayan diocese, who had clashed with his fellow bishops and promoted a priest accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Thursday’s removal of Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, outlines the deep ideological shift under way in the church under Francis, who has is openly acting against
conservative bishops for the sake of keeping peace among the faithful and unity among bishops.
In March, Francis removed the so-called “bling bishop” of Limburg, Germany after his $43m new residence complex triggered contempt among the faithful, who also complained about his authoritarian, conservative style.
The Vatican said Francis took the “onerous” decision in Paraguay for the good of the church in Ciudad del Este and for the sake of unity among Paraguayan bishops.
Livieres was named bishop of Ciudad del Este in 2004 and immediately disturbed other more progressive bishops in Paraguay by opening his own seminary that follows a more orthodox line than the main seminary in the capital, Asuncion.
Paraguay’s bishops are known for their progressive bent in a poor country where liberation theology found fertile ground.
Livieres also infuriated advocates for victims of sexual abuse by taking in and promoting a tradition-minded Argentine priest, the Reverend Carlos Urrutigoity, who was described by his former superior in the United States as being a “serious threat to young people.”
Urrutigoity has denied allegations of impropriety, has never been charged and has not been accused of sexually abusing minors.
In 2004, though, the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania settled a lawsuit against him, another priest and the diocese for $400,000. The suit had alleged the two men engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct, the Global Post has reported.
The Vatican put on Tuesday its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic under house arrest after opening a criminal trial against him on charges of sexually abusing youngsters.
The case has been a test of Francis’ willingness to sanction even a high-ranking Vatican official for a crime the Holy See has long sought to blame on wayward priests, not direct representatives of the pope.
Francis has said no prelate, whether a priest or a cardinal, has any privileges when it comes to sex abuse.