Pope Francis has fired a conservative Texas bishop after he heavily criticised the pontiff for a recent declaration on LGBTQ+ inclusion in Catholic practices.
An announcement by the Vatican on Saturday (11 November) revealed that Bishop Joseph Strickland of Eastern Texas has been “relieved” of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler.
The decision came after the Pope ordered an “apostolic visitation” in June. Strickland established himself as a leading critic of the pontiff, claiming Pope Francis was “undermining the Deposit of Faith” and a “diabolically disordered clown”.
After being presented with a request to resign on Thursday (9 November), Strickland reported refused to leave his post, forcing Pope Francis to remove the bishop.
Strickland is set to be replaced by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin as an apostolic administrator of the district.
In a statement following the announcement, Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said that an “exhaustive” probe by two US bishops had inquired into “all aspects of the governance and leadership” of Strickland.
They concluded that his continued leadership would be “unfeasible”.
“The recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation of Bishop Strickland was not feasible,” Cardinal DiNardo confirmed.
“Let us keep Bishop Strickland, the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Tyler and Bishop Vásquez in our prayers.”
Bishop Strickland described Pope Francis declaration on welcoming LGBTQ+ Catholics as a ‘travesty’
While the Vatican never released the findings of the “apostolic visitation”, the conservative website LifeSiteNews said it interviewed Strickland following his removal and quoted him as saying it was partly due to his refusal to implement the pope’s restrictions on celebrating old Latin Mass.
Strickland has also recently criticised Francis’ monthlong debate on making the Church more welcoming for LGBTQ+ Catholics.
Despite the final document not budging from established doctrine, Strickland said it was a “travesty” that the subject was even up for discussion.
“Regrettably, it may be that some will label as schismatics those who disagree with the changes being proposed,” he continued. “Instead, those who would propose changes to that which cannot be changed seek to commandeer Christ’s Church.”
Strickland reportedly said he stood by his decision and felt “very much at peace in the Lord and the truth that he died for”.
The decision to remove the Texas bishop follows Pope Francis’ declaration that transgender Catholics can be baptised, serve as godparents and witness marriages, as long as it does not create scandal or “confusion”.
In response to a request for clarity from the Vatican, the pope confirmed that adults who identify as trans could partake in Catholic practises.
The head of the Catholic Church also noted that under-18s who are questioning their gender identity could be baptised if they are “well prepared and willing”.
The declaration was celebrated by LGBTQ+ rights groups, who said it sent an “unequivocal message” to political leaders that homophobia is unacceptable.
Anti-LGBTQ+ pundits, however, claimed to know Catholic doctrine better than the Pope on this issue. In a Daily Wire broadcast, self-proclaimed ‘theocratic fascist’ Matt Walsh claimed that Catholic dogma demanded trans people to “change your ways”.
“If you’re not gonna do any of those things then you’ve chosen your sin over the truth and you’ve certainly chosen it over the Church,” Walsh said. “This has always been the teaching.”