In a canonically rare step, Pope Francis has removed Bishop Joseph Strickland as the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, the Vatican announced Saturday.
The Holy See press office gave no reason for the decision but said in a Nov. 11 statement that Austin’s Bishop Joe Vásquez would serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese serving around 120,000 Catholics in eastern Texas.
Strickland, who at the age of 65 is 10 years below the customary retirement age for diocesan bishops, has been a vocal critic of the Church’s direction under Pope Francis, often expressing criticisms of the pope on social media.
The bishop’s removal from office comes two months, to the day, after The Pillar reported that senior cardinals had recommended to Pope Francis that Strickland be pressured to resign leadership of his see following an apostolic visitation of the Tyler diocese earlier this year.
In a May post, the bishop said that he believed that Pope Francis is the pope, “but it is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who has oversight of the Diocese of Tyler as it belongs to the ecclesiastical province of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said Nov. 11 that the pope had ordered an apostolic visitation of the Tyler diocese in June.
DiNardo said that the visitation, conducted by Camden’s Bishop Dennis Sullivan and Tucson’s Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas, consisted of “an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the Diocese of Tyler.”
“As a result of the visitation, the recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible,” the cardinal said.