Pope Francis ordered the removal of US Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas during the second weekend of November, in an unprecedented move by the Vatican. Strickland had refused to step down after an investigation.
Typically, a bishop in Strickland’s position will be asked to resign instead of being relieved of his duties outright. Then, the bishop’s resignation will be accepted by the Pope. Strickland, one of Pope Francis’s fiercest critics and one of the most conservative members of the Catholic Church was reportedly first offered that chance and after refusing to do so, was relieved of his duties by the Pope.
But Strickland’s firing isn’t just a matter of philosophical disagreement. Instead, the Vatican received multiple complaints about the bishop that prompted a full investigation, both from other priests and from members of the congregation. The head of the church in Texas, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said that the investigation concluded that Strickland’s continuation in office “was not feasible.”
Strickland has been a strong supporter of former U.S president Donald Trump and has emerged as a hero of conservative U.S Catholic media outlets for his ultra-conservative positions and his social media presence, where he’s criticized Pope Francis for “undermining the Deposit of Faith” and suggested “priests promote gender confusion devastating lives,” all in response to the Pope’s openness to welcoming LGBTQ+ Catholics into the Church.
But Pope Francis, the first Pope from Latin America doesn’t seem likely to stop because Strickland, or the “old guard” like him, has a problem with his approach. He has been steadily moving the Catholic Church towards a more accepting place that welcomes all Catholics ever since he was elected Pope, and he seems dedicated to continuing that goal for the foreseeable future.