Pope Francis has forcibly removed a Texas bishop who built a huge social media following with his brazen criticism of the pontiff, including a warning of ‘blasphemies emanating from Rome.’
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was removed from pastoral duties in the Diocese of Tyler, which the bishop of Austin will temporarily administer, the Vatican said in a one-sentence statement on Saturday.
Strickland, an outspoken conservative on issues including abortion, was known for his social media broadsides against the Holy See and had come to symbolize the growing polarization within the US Catholic hierarchy.
He once called President Joe Biden a ‘fake’ Catholic for supporting abortion rights, and in a tweet earlier this year accused Francis of ‘undermining the deposit of faith.’
Strickland’s direct social media insults of the pontiff were likely what prompted Francis to dispatch two loyal US bishops to Tyler for an ‘apostolic visitation’ in June.
The Vatican never released the findings from its June investigation, and Strickland had publicly insisted he wouldn’t resign voluntarily.
In media interviews Strickland said that he was given a mandate to serve by the late Pope Benedict XVI and couldn´t abdicate that responsibility. He had also complained that he hadn´t been told what exactly the pope’s investigators were looking into.
His firing sparked an immediate outcry among some conservatives and traditionalists who had held up Strickland as a leading point of Catholic reference to counter Francis´ progressive reforms.
Michael J. Matt, editor of the traditionalist newspaper The Remnant, wrote that with the firing, Francis was ‘actively trying to bury fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ.’
‘This is total war,’ Matt wrote on X, formerly Twitter. ‘Francis is a clear and present danger not only to Catholics the world over but also to the whole world itself.’
The two Vatican investigators – Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, N.J., and the retired bishop of Tucson, Ariz., Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas – ‘conducted an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the diocese,’ said the head of the church in Texas, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
After their investigation, a recommendation was made to Francis that ‘the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible,’ DiNardo said in a statement Saturday.
The Vatican asked Strickland to resign November 9, but he declined, prompting Francis to remove him from office two days later, DiNardo’s statement said.
Source: DAILY MAIL