Yet covering up child rape is still OK for the Vatican. Though this latest firing is completely different from the numerous child rape scandals within the Catholic church, there are implications for those cases.
In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for abusive priests, the Holy See has argued that bishops are largely masters of their dioceses and that the pope doesn't really control them. The Vatican has thus sought to limit its own liability, arguing that the pope doesn't exercise sufficient control over the bishops to be held responsible for their bungled response to priests who rape children.
The ability of the pope to actively fire bishops, and not just passively accept their resignations, would seem to undercut the Vatican's argument of a hands-off pope.
"If the pope can fire a bishop, that implies he's their supervisor," said Nick Cafardi, a U.S. canon lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops' lay review board that monitored clerical abuse. "This will invite more lawsuits attempting to sue the pope in American courts."