The bishop criticized Pope Francis as dangerously liberal on divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage
Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, a prominent figure among traditionalist American Catholics, who has been an avid critic of Pope Francis for making the church more welcoming for the LGBTQ community, was removed from his post as bishop of Tyler, the Vatican has said.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Vatican confirmed that the decision followed “an apostolic visitation ordered by the Pope last June in the Diocese of Tyler,” but did not specify the reason.
“The Holy Father has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Tyler, United States of America, and has appointed Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin as apostolic administrator of the same diocese, rendering it sede vacante.”
According to the statement, cited by the Vatican news, “as a result of visitation,” Bishop Strickland’s continuation in office was deemed “not feasible” and he was asked to resign on Thursday. Since the request was declined by the bishop, Pope Frances decided to remove him.
Stickland has repeatedly criticised the head of the Catholic Church’s liberal position on social issues such as transgender rights and same-sex marriage and accused the pope of “undermining the Deposit of Faith.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis, whose papacy began in 2013, stated that “being homosexual isn’t a crime.” This was seen as a move by the leadership of the Catholic Church to take a firmer position of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, which was strongly opposed by the conservative bishops and traditionalists.
Last August, Francis blasted the “backwardness” of these conservative bishops, accusing them of “replacing faith with ideology” and saying that “a correct understanding of Catholic doctrine allows for change over time.”
The Catholic community was outraged by Strickland’s dismissal with some calling the pope a “dictator.”
“Like a Soviet-era dictator, and in a raw exercise of power without provision of law, Pope Francis has removed Bp. Joseph Strickland as bishop of Tyler, TX,” Lepanto Institute, a Virginia based organization dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church, wrote in a X (formerly Twitter) post.
Others accused the Church of “tyranny” and called Stickland’s removal ”a cowardly form of authoritarianism”.
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