Pope Francis has dismissed Texas bishop Joseph Strickland, who has voiced his opposition to the Church’s attempts to be more welcoming to LGBTQ+ congregations. According to reporting from The Guardian, Strickland’s forced departure also comes after an investigation into his diocese from the Vatican, which examined a review of his handling of the region’s finances. However, no reason was given by the Vatican or the U.S. Bishops Conference for the abrupt dismissal.
Bishops are rarely outright relieved of their duties; traditionally, clergy who are in trouble with the Vatican are asked to resign before their duties are stripped. However, the pope will remove someone from their post if they refuse to resign. Strickland did make a statement earlier this year saying he wouldn’t resign if he was asked.
Strickland is a self-described Trump supporter and has become the face of the ultra-conservative wing of the U.S. Catholic church. Strickland has continually spoken out against the pontiff’s goal of making the Church a more accepting place for LGBTQ+ people, as well as Francis’ attempts to give non-clergy more responsibilities and Francis’ decision to allow women to be a part of a three-week long closed session meeting to vote on hot-button issues in the church.
Pope Francis has spoken out against what he called a “reactionary” church in the United States he said had replaced faith with political ideology. It is unclear if the church the Pope spoke of was Strickland’s congregation.
This isn’t the first time the Vatican has called out conservative clergymen from the United States. Just last year, anti-abortion U.S.-based priest Frank Pavone was relieved of his clerical duties after an investigation showed he had used his position to further his political beliefs.
According to The Guardian, Pavone had allegedly placed an aborted fetus on an altar, where he then argued Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party would allow for abortions to continue while Trump would “protect the unborn.”
Strickland was one of Pavone’s only supporters, and he released a statement after sanctions were poised on Pavone.
“The blasphemy is that this holy priest is cancelled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth and the murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials promote immorality and denial of the deposit of faith and priests promote gender confusion devastating lives … evil,” he wrote.
The Vatican has named Joe Vasquez, the bishop of Austin, Texas, as the interim administrator for Strickland’s diocese while the pope works to name a full-time replacement.