Pope Dismisses US Bishop Joseph Strickland Who Was Prominent Critic

Following worries about his leadership and governance, Pope Francis fired US Bishop Joseph Strickland, a prominent conservative who has regularly criticized his pontificate.

The Vatican provided no explanation for the dismissal, which is unusual in the Catholic Church, since troubled senior clerics are usually encouraged — or told — to quit.

However, a US cardinal stated it was related to a Francis-ordered investigation into “all aspects of governance and leadership” in Strickland’s Tyler diocese in Texas.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, also of Texas, stated that the so-called apostolic visitation in June concluded that the bishop’s continued service was “not feasible.”

He said that Strickland, 65, was asked to quit on Thursday but refused, leading Francis to step in.

“The Holy Father has relieved from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Tyler (US) Joseph E. Strickland,” the Vatican said in a statement.

It said the bishop of Austin, Joe Vasquez, had been named as apostolic administrator of the diocese, but gave no further details.

Strickland was appointed by Benedict XVI in 2012 and quickly became a vocal critic of his successor, Pope Francis.

Since taking office ten years ago, the Argentine pope, 86, has worked to build a more compassionate, open-minded Church.

However, Francis has encountered harsh criticism from critics, particularly in the United States, who accuse him of sowing confusion and failing to preserve fundamental Catholic doctrines.

In a message earlier this year on X, formerly Twitter, Strickland said that while he recognised Francis as the pope, “I reject his programme of undermining the deposit of faith”.

Many of Francis’ detractors claim he is too soft on abortion and too compassionate toward homosexuals and divorcees.

He, in turn, bemoaned earlier this year the “strong reactionary attitude” of some Catholics in the United States, claiming that they do not understand the “evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals.”

The Vatican has not commented on its investigation into the Texas diocese, although Strickland previously stated that two US bishops spent a week conducting interviews about the situation there, including with him.

He addressed rumors that he will be invited to quit voluntarily in a blog post in September.

“I cannot resign as bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock” under his care, he wrote.

“I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as Bishop of Tyler.”

He went on to say that he loved Jesus and the Church, and that “my only desire is to speak His truth and live God’s will to the best of my ability.”

According to commentators, a bishop being directly dismissed of their position is exceedingly rare — but not unprecedented.

In March 2022, Francis sacked a bishop in Puerto Rico, Daniel Fernandez Torres, in a same manner, with no explanation given by the Vatican.

Torres claimed he was told he wasn’t “obedient” to the pope and didn’t have good enough relationships with other bishops.

According to media reports at the time, he backed people who resisted mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.

Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas, detailed the process to Strickland in a statement released on Saturday.

“The recommendation was made to the Holy Father that Bishop Strickland’s continuation in office was not feasible,” he stated after his visit to the Tyler diocese.

“Months of careful consideration” went into the decision to urge Strickland to quit — and finally remove him.

According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the diocese of Tyler has more than 120,000 Catholics out of a total population of more than 1.4 million people.

Leave a Reply