Pope removes outspoken conservative Texas bishop after investigation

Nov 11, 2023, 10:55 AM

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesd...

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(CNN) — Pope Francis has removed a Texas bishop from his position after an investigation ordered by the Vatican.

The Pope removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, after an apostolic visitation conducted by two bishops, according to a statement from Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

The Vatican confirmed the decision in its own Saturday news release.

Strickland’s removal follows an investigation ordered by the Vatican into “all aspects of the governance and leadership of the Diocese of Tyler,” says DiNardo’s statement.

The visit was ordered by the Pope and conducted by Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, according to the statement.

Strickland has been an outspoken critic of Pope Francis, challenging his leadership over social media and even daring Francis to fire him during an interview in 2020, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Strickland also used social media to post anti-vaccine messages during the COVID-19 pandemic and called President Joe Biden an “evil president” over his support of abortion rights, the outlet reports.

CNN previously reported that Strickland was so agitated over Biden’s victory in 2020 that when the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement with congratulations on his win, he tweeted, “A dark cloud has descended on this nation when the USCCB and Planned Parenthood speak in unison in support of a Biden-Harris administration that supports the slaughter of innocents by abortion for all 9 months of pregnancy.”

Strickland was asked to resign from his position on Thursday but declined to do so, according to DiNardo’s statement.

The findings made during the investigation have not been made available to the public, but DiNardo noted in his statement that it was “not feasible” for Strickland to remain in his Tyler position.

“The recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible,” reads the statement. “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. Having been presented with that request on November 9, 2023, Bishop Strickland declined to resign from office.”

“Thereafter, on November 11, 2023, the Holy Father removed Bishop Strickland from the Office of Bishop of Tyler,” he added.

The Catholic Diocese of Tyler also announced the decision early Saturday on its website. “During this time of transition, we pray that God may continue to abundantly bless and strengthen the Church and God’s holy, faithful people here and around the world,” wrote the diocese.

Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin has been appointed “apostolic administrator” of the Tyler diocese, according to the Archdiocese’s statement announcing Strickland’s removal.

CNN has been unable to reach Strickland for comment.

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Pope removes outspoken conservative Texas bishop after investigation