The Vatican announced on Saturday 11 November that Bishop Joseph Strickland had been “relieved” of his position as the head of the Diocese of Tyler after the pope ordered an “apostolic visitation” in June.
Bishop Strickland emerged as a leading critic of the pontiff, claiming his leadership was “undermining the Deposit of Faith” and amplifying videos on social media that described Francis as a “diabolically disordered clown”.
Cardinal Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said in a statement that his removal came after the Vatican ordered an investigation into “all aspects of the governance and leadership”.
An “exhaustive” probe by two US bishops concluded that his continued leadership would be “unfeasible”, the cardinal added.
Bishop Strickland had declined a request to resign, leading to the Pope ordering his firing, Cardinal DiNardo said.
The firing has led to an outcry among conservative Catholic commentators in the US.
“This is total war,” The Remnant Newspaper editor Michael Matt wrote on X.
“Francis is a clear and present danger not only to Catholics the world over but also to the whole world itself. It appears now that he is actively trying to bury fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ.”
This week, the Pope said that the church would allow transgender Catholics to be baptised and serve as godparents as long as it did not create scandal or “confusion”.
He has previously stated that gay marriages could be blessed and the church was “open to all” as part of growing outreach to the LGBTQ community.
Pope Francis has also spoken out frequently about climate change as a grave threat.
His approach has put him at odds with more conservative elements of the church in the US.
Bishop Strickland, 65, was appointed head of the diocese in 2012 by Benedict XVI. He was an outspoken critic of Covid-19 vaccines and lockdowns, and described Joe Biden as an “evil president” for his support of abortion rights.
He will be temporarily replaced by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin.