According to Vaticanist Marco Tosatti, Pope Francis ordered Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the congregation, to dismiss the priests because of an unknown incident.
Maike Hickson, writing for OnePeterFive, discovered that the three priests are of Slovakian-American, French, and Mexican nationality.
Tosatti reported, as translated by Hickson:
The head of a dicastery has received the order to remove three of his employees (all of whom have worked there for a long time), and it was without any explanation. He [the Prefect] received these official letters: “….I request that you please dismiss ….” The order was: send him [each of them] back into his diocese of origin or to the Religious Family to which he belongs. He [the Prefect of the Congregation] was very perplexed because it was about three excellent priests who are among the most capable professionally. He first avoided obeying and several times asked for an audience with the pope. He had to wait because that meeting was postponed several times. Finally, he was received in an audience. And he said: “Your Holiness, I have received these letters, but I did not do anything because these persons are among the best of my dicastery… what did they do?” The answer was, as follows: “And I am the pope, I do not need to give reasons for any of my decisions. I have decided that they have to leave and they have to leave.” He got up and stretched out his hand in order to indicate that the audience was at an end. On 31 December, two of the three [men] will leave the dicastery in which they have worked for years, and without knowing the why. For the third, there seems to be a certain delay. But then, there is another implication which, if true, would be even more unpleasant. One of the two had freely spoken about certain decisions of the pope – perhaps a little bit too much. A certain person – a friend of a close collaborator of the pope – heard this disclosure and passed it on. The victim received then a very harsh telephone call from Number One [i.e., the pope]. And then soon came the dismissal.
Just before Christmas in his traditional address to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis denounced “malicious resistance” against him and his works that allegedly come from the ranks of his own cardinals and officials.
Tosatti himself sees evidence that there is some kind of “reciprocal anger” between Curia members and the Pope. This is not surprising because Catholics often hear Pope Francis critiquing his own Church and priests while praising estranged bodies like the UN for their efforts in human rights.
Tosatti speaks of an “autocratic fever that seems to have broken out in the Vatican.” Interestingly enough, this authoritative step is in seeming contradiction with Pope Francis’ hailed “mercy” and his supposedly gentle ways of dealing with people.
The dismissal also points to the “climate of fear” shared by many in the Vatican who live in suspense as to whether they will be removed from their positions or encounter reprimands, as LifeSiteNews reported.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has been called one of Pope Francis’ favorites for the position of prefect for the CDF, speculation supported by the pope's decision to highlight Schonborn's interpretation of Amoris Laetitia as authoritative.
The Pontifical Academy for Life — another orthodox body of the Church, reliable for its faithfulness to tradition and the moral teaching of the Church — experienced a similar “refurbishment.”