The Catholic Church has defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over sexual abuse allegations stretching back decades.
"The defrocking or dismissal from the clerical state is one of the harshest penalties", he explained.
While declining to describe if and how he has seen Pope Francis change in response to abuse accusations, Archbishop Scicluna said, "I think that if you are talking about the pope's experience in Chile", where he initially insisted allegations against a bishop were slanderous, "I have been impressed by the humility of the Holy Father, his readiness to say, 'I got that wrong'".
Along with claims he abused minors, the former priest and cardinal has also been the subject to allegations of sexual misconduct against seminarians including asking them to share his bed.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has said he struggled to engage his counterparts from Africa and Asia in serious discussions on clergy sex abuse while he represented the United States at a Vatican assembly in October.
The Vatican will gather senior bishops from around the world later this week for a conference on sex abuse created to guide them on how best to tackle a problem that has decimated the Church's credibility, but critics say it is too little, too late.
By ordering McCarrick's "dismissal from the clerical state", the decision means that McCarrick loses all rights and duties associated with being a priest, can not present himself as a priest and is forbidden to celebrate the sacraments, except to grant absolution for sins to a person in imminent danger of death.
"Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law", he said.
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The only previous case of a cardinal resigning came in 1927, when Pope Pius XI accepted the resignation of French cardinal Lois Billot, who had himself renounced his status for political reasons.
"Much work remains - holding accountable those in the Church hierarchy who looked the other way as McCarrick rose through their ranks and ensuring that the Catholic Church worldwide is united in safeguarding children and young adults from sexual abuse and restoring priestly celibacy among its shepherds", said Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal adviser for the organization.
"Today I am happy that the pope believed me", Grein said in a statement issued through his lawyer.
The Vatican's removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick "is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated", said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 16.
McCarrick, the former Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Newark, New Jersey, has been accused of sexually abusing young seminarians and teenage boys, including the first child he baptized, who claims McCarrick abused him for nearly 20 years beginning at age 11. Church leaders said what was once whispered or pushed aside will now be out in the open. Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org says also demanded that the pope use immediately laicize other abusive bishops.
The Vatican made a dramatic move this morning ahead of the upcoming synod dealing with the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
The pope, who asked the bishops to speak to victims of abuse in their respective countries before the Rome convention, has tried to dial down "inflated expectations" for a cure-all.
The pope said at the time that the archives could reveal questionable historic practices, such as the law of silence over abuse among top-ranking clergy that often led to paedophile priests being transferred to other dioceses rather than handed over to face justice. Maciel's sex crimes against children were ignored for decades by a Vatican bureaucracy impressed by his ability to bring in donations and vocations.
Like Maciel, McCarrick was a powerful and popular prelate who funnelled millions in donations to the Vatican.