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Pope Francis fires Texas bishop and conservative critic Joseph Strickland | Pope Francis


Pope Francis

The rare move comes after years of criticism from Strickland, a staunch supporter of former US President Donald Trump.


Sun, November 12, 2023 12:06 AM EST

Pope Francis has fired a Texas bishop, Joseph Strickland, one of his staunchest critics among American Catholic conservatives, the Vatican announced.

It is very rare that a bishop is simply relieved of his functions. Usually, bishops in trouble with the Vatican are asked to resign before submitting their resignation, which the pope accepts.

A pope only makes such a decision when a bishop refuses a resignation request and is considered drastic. Strickland is 65, 10 years younger than the usual retirement age for bishops. Strickland said earlier this year that he would refuse to resign if asked.

Strickland, a prolific social media user who was appointed to the diocese by the late Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, tweeted earlier this year that he rejected Francis’ “agenda undermining the deposit of faith.”

He has been particularly critical of the pontiff’s attempt to make the Catholic Church more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community and Francis’ attempts to give more responsibilities to the laity in the Church and opposed a recent synod.

Saturday’s firing follows a Vatican investigation earlier this year into the administration of the Diocese of Tyler, which Catholic media reports said included a review of its handling of financial affairs.

This was announced simultaneously by the Vatican and the American Bishops’ Conference. Neither statement gave a reason.

There was no immediate response from Strickland. A telephone recording from the diocese indicates that it is closed for the weekend.

Strickland has become one of the most vocal standard-bearers for the ultra-conservative wing of the American Catholic Church and has a national following far beyond the small diocese of Tyler in East Texas.

Last August, Francis lamented what he called a “reactionary” Catholic Church in the United States, where he said political ideology had replaced faith in some cases.

Strickland is a strong supporter of former US President Donald Trump and is considered a hero by the Trump-aligned US conservative Catholic media.

Last year, when the Vatican defrocked ultra-conservative anti-abortion American priest Frank Pavone for “blasphemous” social media posts and disobedience to bishops, Strickland was one of the few American bishops to defend him publicly.

“The blasphemy is that this holy priest is canceled while a bad president promotes the denial of truth and the murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials promote immorality and denial of the deposit of faith and priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil,” Strickland wrote on the platform then known as Twitter.

The Vatican said Francis named Austin, Texas, Bishop Joe Vasquez as interim administrator of the Diocese of Tyler.


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