The Vatican announced on Saturday that Pope Francis dismissed Bishop Joseph Strickland, one of the pope’s most outspoken critics in the U.S. hierarchy.
The Vatican announced that Bishop Joe Vázquez of Austin was appointed “apostolic administrator” or interim bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and that the pope had “relieved [the bishop] of the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler.”
A statement released on Saturday by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and overseer of the Catholic hierarchy in southeastern Texas, stated that a Vatican investigation this summer concluded that “the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible,” which led to his dismissal.
The rationale behind the cardinal’s recommendation of Strickland’s departure was not explicitly stated. Strickland was requested to resign on Thursday, but declined, according to DiNardo.
The pope’s decision to dismiss a bishop in this fashion, as opposed to soliciting and obtaining his resignation, is exceedingly uncommon.
Strickland disclosed to Religion News Service in September that he would not voluntarily resign but acknowledged the pope’s authority to do so.
Strickland retains his episcopal rank despite the termination of his diocese-supervising status.
Strickland cautioned his diocese in an August open letter that the October Vatican synod of bishops, clergy, and laypeople—one of the most significant initiatives of Francis’ supporters—could cast doubt on “fundamental truths” of the faith, such as the immorality of engaging in sexual activity outside of matrimony and the “undeniable biological and divine” essence of gender identity.