Bishop Strickland refuses to resign gracefully


In an unsurprising move, Pope Francis removed Bishop Joseph Strickland from his position as the head of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.

His action on Saturday follows an Apostolic Visitation of the Diocese and Strickland’s refusal to resign when the Pope offered him the chance to do so gracefully.

The Vatican initiated an Apostolic Visitation of the Diocese, led by two bishops, to thoroughly investigate Strickland’s governance and leadership.

Their report concluded that Strickland’s continuing role was untenable, leading to a recommendation for his resignation.

Despite being presented with this option on November 9, Strickland refused, resulting in his removal by Pope Francis on November 11.

This decision is seen as a significant and rare step by the Vatican, especially given that Strickland, at 65, is still ten years away from the usual retirement age for bishops.

The Vatican’s announcement did not provide specific reasons for his dismissal.

Using social media to attack Pope Francis

Known for his active social media presence, Strickland has more than 120,000 followers on Twitter, surpassing the number of Catholics in his diocese.

His recent posts have been contentious, almost goading Pope Francis to act. The Tweets include:

In a tweet from May 13, Strickland stated “I believe Pope Francis is the Pope, but it is time for me to say that I reject his programme of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus.”

This outspoken stance has been described by Massimo Faggioli as “the strangest behaviour by a bishop” in the social media era. Faggioli is a respected theologian and church historian at Villanova University.

Strickland responds to removal

The Tyler Diocesan office was not available for comment over the weekend.

However, the conservative website LifeSiteNews reported an interview with the former diocesan bishop on Saturday.

According to the website, Strickland believes his dismissal was due partly to his refusal to enforce Francis’ 2021 restrictions on the old Latin Mass.

“I can’t starve out part of my flock” he remarked, expressing his peace “in the Lord and the truth that He died for.”

In an email to The Wall Street Journal, Strickland wrote that he is saddened for the harm to the faithful but at peace in His Truth.

Asked about his plans, he replied, “Just praying for now.”


Bishop Strickland greets children on first day of school

Catholic community responds

Strickland’s removal has provoked anger among some conservative Catholics.

Francis is “actively trying to bury fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ” says Michael J. Matt, editor of the traditionalist newspaper The Remnant

Matt is labelling the situation as “total war”.

Also disappointed is former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Head, Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

In Rorate Caeli, Müller calls Strickland’s sacking “an abuse of the divine right of the episcopate”.

The former Vatican authority figure, says dioceses are established by Christ himself, and the Pope has no authority from Christ to intimidate and bully good bishops.

Müller says that a bishop can be removed only if he has done something evil, such as blessing people of the opposite sex or people in extramarital relationships.

However, support for Francis’ move has come from Amanda Martínez Beck, former managing editor for the Tyler Diocese’s magazine.

Beck told NCR that the former Bishop of Tyler’s strident rhetoric and partisanship, which he amplified on social media, left her a disillusioned, lapsed Catholic.

“I don’t know if I’ll go back to Mass” said Beck, who often responded to Strickland’s public posts on X, urging him to rethink the tone and content of his statements.

Fr Tim Kelly, a parish priest in the Tyler diocese who clashed with Strickland, also supported the Pope’s move.

He told NCR that Strickland “used to be a nice, unassuming, likeable man.”

But according to Kelly, that changed once he reached a sort of “celebrity” status among hardline conservative Catholics.

Kelly said the bishop “ruined lives and ruptured decades-old friendships,” as his stature grew in traditionalist circles.

“Families have stopped going to Mass because of his unkind words” Kelly said.

“He needs time for reflection.”

Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin has been appointed as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Tyler until a new bishop is named.


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