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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis has removed a Texas bishop from his office, a move shocking many in the Church.
The move was announced Saturday in the Holy See's daily bulletin after Francis yesterday reportedly met with Cdl. Robert Francis Prevost, prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops.
According to the bulletin:
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, rendering it sede vacante.
While the United States was remembering 9/11 in early September, Pope Francis was meeting with Vatican officials to discuss the results of an apostolic visitation to Bp. Strickland's diocese.
Along with Prevost, the pontiff met with Abp. Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Before that meeting, a senior official close to the Dicastery for Bishops told the Pillar, "The situation of Bp. Strickland is the agenda."
That same official explained that there were two aspects to the situation regarding the Texas bishop: "The matter of the public scandal from all these comments about the pope and the synod" and "real problems in the diocese."
"Those were the focus of the visitation; there are concerns in the diocese about governance, about financial matters, about basic prudence," he added.
"The consensus in the dicastery is that he will be asked to consider resigning," he said. "That has been the substance of discussion among the members." "Depending on how the bishop responds, the strength of that encouragement could be increased."
As tension between the Vatican and the Texas bishop was escalating, Religious News Service asked Bp. Strickland in early September what he would do if the pope asked him to resign.
"As a basic principle, I cannot resign the mandate given to me by Pope Benedict XVI," he answered. "Of course, that mandate can be rescinded by Pope Francis, but I cannot voluntarily abandon the flock that I have been given charge of as a successor of the apostles."
And that is how it played out, with Strickland refusing to resign when asked, and later being personally removed by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis does have a record of removing bishops who claim to be merely following the Catholic faith.
In March 2022, Pope Francis ousted Daniel Fernández Torres as bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, because he allegedly "had not been obedient to the pope, nor had [he] had sufficient communion with [his] brother bishops of Puerto Rico."
Torres refused to sign a joint statement urging the moral obligation of COVID-19 vaccinations, a stance he defended as a conscientious objection recognized by the Church. The bishop noted, "I have opposed what I consider to be using episcopal ministry to advance political agendas."
He also refused to send his seminarians to a new interdiocesan seminary in Puerto Rico, sending them instead to Spain. He noted, however, that he would change his policy if the Holy See specifically instructed him to.
He declared to his flock, "I have not been prosecuted, nor have I been formally accused of anything."
Despite having the prerogative as a successor to the Apostles to decide these issues, Fernández Torres faced mounting pressure to resign — a move he resisted — equating it to admitting guilt and succumbing to an unjust process. Throughout the ordeal, he maintained a high regard for Pope Francis, expressing doubts that the resignation request originated from the pope and seeking a formal process to address the allegations. He even requested to meet specifically with Pope Francis to discuss the alleged issues at hand, but no meeting took place.
Known by some as "America's bishop," Strickland is one of the few U.S. Catholic bishops to be vocal in his support for the Church.
He was the only U.S. bishop to attend the June 16 protest against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the team's support of the blasphemous Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It created something of an embarrassment for L.A. Abp. Jose Gómez and his auxiliary bishops.
Strickland has stepped up his social media postings over the past year, being an outspoken critic of much of what has transpired during the Francis papacy and holding accountable multiple members of the worldwide hierarchy.
His almost daily postings on the social media platform X (previously Twitter) have garnered much attention and criticism.
It is a travesty that these things are even proposed for discussion. I pray that all who truly know Jesus Christ will not be deceived by this path. The Gospel welcomes all to repentance & sanctity, if there is no repentance the barriers to sanctity remain. https://t.co/uZKbGA6ULJ— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) June 21, 2023
Amen your Eminence Amen… https://t.co/3DSP4ZuQG1— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) June 21, 2023
The decision to remove Strickland comes two days before the U.S. bishops begin their gathering in Baltimore.