When a bishop pleads guilty to possessing child pornography, as did the former bishop of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, the Vatican promises to follow canonical procedures and punish him accordingly. But what happens when the pope removes bishops for less illegal offenses, such as poor management or raising questions about married and women priests? As Austen Ivereigh points out at In All Things, when a pope wants remove a bishop who admits to a grave canonical crime, there are procedures to follow. But when he wants to sack a bishop who hasn't broken any canon laws, the situation gets a bit murkier. Ivereigh writes:
Yet it seems odd that a bishop convicted and admitting guilty to possession of child pornography should be subjected to a careful canonical process, whereas bishops guilty of mismanagement and doctrinal laxity should be summarily dismissed....Obviously laicization is far more serious than removal from active ministry--even from episcopal office; and canon law rightly places safeguards. But still, in the case of the Australian and the Congolese bishops, isn't at least an official explanation due?
The answer is yes. But I'm not holding my breath.