VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI announced last month he was transferring his respected sex crimes prosecutor to Malta to become a bishop, Vatican watchers immediately questioned whether the Holy See was relaxing its tough line on clerical abuse — and if another outspoken cleric was being punished for doing his job too well.
After all, several senior Vatican officials who ran afoul of the Vatican’s entrenched ways have recently been transferred in face-saving ‘‘promote and remove’’ steps as the Vatican handles fallout from a criminal trial about leaked papal documents, a mixed report card on its financial transparency, and its controversial crackdown on US nuns.
In an interview on the eve of his departure, Bishop-elect Charles Scicluna said that he was not the latest casualty in the Vatican’s turf battles and personnel intrigues.
Rather, he said, his promotion to auxiliary bishop in his native Malta was simply that — ‘‘a very good’’ promotion — and that his hard-line stance against sex abuse would remain because it’s the pope’s stance as well.
‘‘This is policy,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not Scicluna. It’s the pope.’’
Besides, he said, ‘‘If you want to silence someone, you don’t make him a bishop.’’
In a decade on the job, Scicluna, 53, became the face of the Holy See’s efforts to show it was serious about ending sex crimes and coverup by the church hierarchy.