VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Thursday forcibly removed a conservative bishop from a Paraguayan diocese who had clashed with his fellow bishops and promoted a priest accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
The removal of Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, underscored the deep ideological shift under way in the church under Francis, who has been unafraid of 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 31-million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar 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, following 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 Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, whose former superior in the United States had reported was 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.