Pope Francis ousted a Texas bishop, signaling he may finally be done with ultraconservative US Catholics

Pope Francis attends his weekly General Audience at the Paul VI Hall on August 09, 2023 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Pope Francis.Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images
  • Pope Francis relieved an outspoken, controversial Texas bishop of his duties.

  • Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was often critical of Pope Francis.

  • The Pope has previously called some conservative US Catholics "backward."

In a rare move, Pope Francis relieved an outspoken and controversial Texas bishop from his post on Saturday.

It may be a sign that his patience with conservative Catholics in the United States — some of whom have decried the Pope as too open-minded — is waning.

"The Holy Father has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Tyler," the Vatican announced. Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin was tapped to temporarily replace Strickland.

Strickland, a vocal opponent of the Pope, previously refused to resign after an investigation into his leadership.

"I have said publicly that I cannot resign as Bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI," Strickland said in a September post on his website.

Those comments followed an Apostolic Visitation to Strickland's diocese in June, after which the visiting bishops told the Pope it was "not feasible" for Strickland to continue his charge, according to a statement by Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

In a tweet in May, Strickland acknowledged Francis' legitimacy as the Pope but added: "It is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus."

Strickland declined when he was formally asked to resign on Thursday, prompting the Pope to remove him two days later, DiNardo said in his statement.

In the last year, Strickland intensified his criticisms of the Pope, going so far as to question whether officials at the Vatican were actual Catholics, according to The New York Times. Tensions within the Catholic Church have grown as it faces questions about same-sex couples and the ordination of women.

For his part, the Pope has blasted some American Catholics as "backward" and "reactionary" to concepts of progress.

Acknowledging the upheaval, the Diocese of Tyler said its "work as the Catholic Church in northeast Texas continues."

"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," a statement from the diocese read. "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."

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