A Catholic bishop in East Texas has been relieved of his post as head of the Diocese of Tyler by Pope Francis, Vatican officials announced on Saturday.
Bishop Joseph Strickland will be allowed to keep the title and duties of bishop. However, control of the diocese was reportedly passed to Bishop Joe Vázquez of Austin, who will serve as its administrator in an acting capacity.
“I’m saddened for the harm to the faithful but at peace in His Truth, stay Jesus Strong,” Strickland wrote to The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, responding to a request for comment from the news outlet.
Strickland was purportedly asked to resign on Thursday, but the bishop declined. Pope Francis subsequently removed him from the position.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Strickland and the Diocese of Tyler faced an apostolic visitation over the summer by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops after Strickland repeatedly criticized the pope’s leadership, accusing him of undermining the Catholic faith.
In May, Strickland posted on social media, writing, “[I]t is time for me to say that I reject [Pope Francis’] program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus.”
One month later, he posted, “Let us pray constantly & fervently that more & more faithful Catholics will awaken to the devastating stranglehold that corruption has on the Roman Catholic Church. The Church which is the mystical body of Christ should be guiding us out of this darkness but she is weak.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that the investigation into Strickland and his diocese determined that “the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible.”
Pope Francis has been criticized by more traditional members of the Catholic Church, like Strickland, who disagree with the pope’s allegedly left-wing views on LGBTQ lifestyles and other social issues.
Strickland was outspoken on a number of national issues in recent years, having criticized the notion of making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory and arguing fervently against permitting abortion in the United States.
The bishop has also been an ardent critic of President Joe Biden for his left-wing positions on abortion and LGBTQ issues. In January, Strickland lambasted the president for suggesting there was support among Catholic leaders for taxpayer-funded abortion programs.
“Mr Biden can’t be allowed to twist the words of Pope Francis in this way. I implore the Vatican press office to emphatically clarify that Pope Francis rightly calls abortion murder. It is time to denounce Biden’s fake Catholicism,” wrote Strickland.
More recently, Strickland organized against an invitation the Los Angeles Dodgers extended to a drag troupe called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — a group of drag queens who dress like Catholic nuns. Some have described the troupe as an “anti-Catholic hate group.”
The Wall Street Journal asked Strickland what his plans were following his dismissal as head of the Diocese of Tyler.
“Just praying for now,” the bishop replied.