Bishop removed by Pope Francis: “I know the Lord is with me”
A theologically conservative Catholic Bishop Joseph Strickland in Texas who was a strong critic of Pope Francis' actions says despite being ousted by the pontiff from his position, he remains confident that “the Lord is with me.”
The Vatican posted a bulletin on Saturday describing appointments and resignations of bishops, noting at the end that Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas, was removed from office.
“The Holy Father has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Tyler, United States of America, and has appointed Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin as apostolic administrator of the same diocese,” the Vatican stated. Vásquez will oversee the Texas-based Diocese until a permanent successor is named.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston explained in a statement released Saturday that the decision to remove Strickland came following an Apostolic Visitation earlier this year by Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.
“The Prelates conducted an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the Diocese of Tyler by its Ordinary, Bishop Joseph Strickland,” said DiNardo.
“As a result of the Visitation, the recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible. After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested.”
The Vatican first asked Strickland to resign on Thursday. According to DiNardo, when Strickland refused to step aside, the pontiff decided to remove him from office. DiNardo implored people to “keep Bishop Strickland, the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Tyler, and Bishop Vasquez in our prayers.”
In a statement announcing Strickland’s departure over the weekend, the Diocese of Tyler said, “Our work as the Catholic Church in northeast Texas continues.”
The Diocese added, “Our mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to foster an authentic Christian community, and to serve the needs of all people with compassion and love. We strive to deepen our faith, promote the common good, and create a welcoming environment for all to encounter the loving God – Father, Son, and Spirit.”
For his part, Strickland told LifeSiteNews in an interview six hours after his removal from office that he believed there were “forces in the Catholic Church” that “don’t want the truth of the Gospel” but instead want “it changed” and “ignored.”
“They want to be rid of the truth that is gloriously not going to go away,” Strickland asserted. “It is a sad day for me, but I’m strong in the Lord.”
“I encourage myself and others to go more deeply than ever into prayer. To pray for Pope Francis, to pray for the Church, to pray for our world.”
Strickland also said that while he was unsure of his next steps, “I know that the Lord is with me. I know the power of His love.” He urged the faithful to pray for Francis even when one is “frustrated” or “angry” with him.
Strickland, like many theologically conservative Church leaders, has emerged as a critic of Francis for advancing what he views as efforts to undermine traditional teachings of the Catholic Church regarding gender, marriage and sexuality and a failure to articulately defend such teachings from those who seek to change them.
Throughout his papacy, Francis has repeatedly extended an olive branch to the LGBT community while declining to change the Catholic Church’s teachings about marriage and homosexual practices.
Just last year, Strickland illustrated his discontent with the pontiff when reacting to the dismissal of longtime pro-life activist Frank Pavone from the priesthood: “The blasphemy is that this holy priest is cancelled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth & the murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials promote immorality & denial of the deposit of faith & priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil.”
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, an outspoken critic of the pontiff who in 2020 claimed that Catholic Church leaders were allowing “heresy, sodomy and corruption” to abound in the institution, denounced the removal of Strickland.
“The removal of His Excellency Archbishop Joseph Strickland, especially after the failure to ambush him with the Apostolic Visitation, appears as a cowardly form of authoritarianism, which in no way fits with Bergoglio’s rants about welcoming and inclusiveness,” said Viganò in a tweet.
“This affair will reveal who stands with the true Church of Christ and who chooses to stand with His declared enemies. To remain silent and endure this umpteenth violation of the most basic principles of justice and truth is to make oneself complicit with a subverter.”
Vigano’s reference to the pontiff as Bergoglio reflects that Francis’ given name is Jorge Bergoglio.