Pope Francis fires outspoken Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, who called Joe Biden a ‘fake Catholic’ and accused the Vatican of ‘blasphemy’
Pope Francis has forcibly removed a Texas bishop who built a huge social media following with his brazen criticism of the pope, including a warning about “blasphemies coming from Rome.”
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has been relieved of pastoral duties in the Diocese of Tyler, which will be temporarily governed by the Bishop of Austin, the Vatican said in a one-sentence statement on Saturday.
Strickland, an outspoken conservative on issues including abortion, was known for his comments on social media against the Holy See and had become a symbol of the growing polarization within the American Catholic hierarchy.
He once called President Joe Biden a “fake” Catholic for his support of abortion rights, and accused Francis in a tweet earlier this year of “undermining the basis of faith.”
Strickland’s direct insults on social media toward the pope were likely the reason Francis sent two loyal American bishops to Tyler for an “apostolic visit” in June.
Pope Francis has forcibly deposed Texas Bishop Joseph E. Strickland (right), who built a huge social media following with his brutal criticism of the pope.
The Vatican never released the findings from the June investigation, and Strickland had publicly insisted he would not resign voluntarily.
In media interviews, Strickland said he was given a mandate by the late Pope Benedict XVI and could not abdicate that responsibility. He had also complained that he was not told exactly what the Pope’s investigators were looking at.
His resignation sparked immediate outrage among some conservatives and traditionalists who had looked to Strickland as a leading Catholic reference point to counter Francis’ progressive reforms.
Michael J. Matt, editor of the traditionalist newspaper The Remnant, wrote that Francis was “actively trying to bury fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ” with the resignation.
“This is an all-out war,” Matt wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Francis is a clear and present danger, not only to Catholics around the world, but to the entire world itself.”
The two Vatican investigators — Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, N.J., and retired Bishop of Tucson, Ariz., Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas — “conducted a comprehensive investigation into all aspects of the diocese’s governance and leadership,” the head said from the Vatican. the church in Texas, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
After their investigation, it was recommended to Francis that “the continuation of Bishop Strickland’s ministry was not feasible,” DiNardo said in a statement Saturday.
The Vatican asked Strickland to resign on Nov. 9, but he refused, prompting Francis to remove him from office two days later, DiNardo’s statement said.
Strickaland remained outspoken on social media even after Francis sent emissaries to visit him in June. His above tweet from last month spoke of ‘blasphemies coming from Rome’
It is rare for the Pope to remove a bishop from office by force. Bishops must tender their resignation when they turn 75. Strickland is only 65.
When the Vatican raises issues of governance or other problems that require a bishop to resign from office before then, the Vatican usually tries to pressure him to resign for the good of his diocese and the church.
Such was the case earlier this year when another American bishop was forced out following a Vatican investigation.
Knoxville, Tennenssee Bishop Richard Stika resigned voluntarily, albeit under pressure, after accusations that he mishandled sex abuse allegations, and his priests complained about his leadership and behavior.
But as for Strickland, the Vatican statement made clear that he had not offered to resign, and that Francis had instead “relieved” him of his job.
Francis has not been shy about his concerns about conservatives in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, which is divided between progressives and conservatives who long found support in the doctrinaire papal popes of John Paul II and Benedict issues. sex marriage.
In his comments to the Portuguese Jesuits in August, Francis denounced the “backwardness” of these bishops, saying they had replaced faith with ideology and that a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time.
Most recently, Strickland had criticized Francis’ months-long behind-closed-doors debate on making the church more welcoming and responsive to the needs of today’s Catholics.
Most recently, Strickland (above) had criticized Francis’ months-long behind-closed-doors debate about making the church more welcoming and responsive to the needs of Catholics today.
The meeting debated a host of previously taboo topics, including women in government positions and welcoming LGBTQ+ Catholics, but ultimately the final document did not deviate from established doctrine.
Before the meeting, Strickland said it was a “travesty” that such things were even up for discussion.
“Unfortunately, some may label those who disagree with the proposed changes as schismatics,” Strickland wrote in a public letter in August.
“Instead, those who wish to propose changes in that which cannot be changed seek to conquer the Church of Christ, and they are indeed the true schismatics.”
On Saturday, the Diocese of Tyler announced Strickland’s removal in a statement but said the church’s work in Tyler would continue.
Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin has been named apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Tyler.
“Our mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, foster authentic Christian community, and meet the needs of all people with compassion and love,” the diocese said. “We strive to deepen our faith, promote the common good, and create a welcoming environment where all can encounter the loving God: Father, Son and Spirit.”
In a social media post sent a few hours before the Vatican’s noon announcement, Strickland wrote a prayer about Christ as “the way, the truth and the life, yesterday, today and forever.”
He had changed the username from his previous X account @bishopoftyler to @BishStrickland.