Conservative Catholic Bishop Joseph Strickland was removed as the ordinary for the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, on Saturday.
Described as one of the “most forthright and vocal bishops” in the country, Strickland, 65, is known for his conservative values. He has openly criticized the pope for his inclusion of women in governance and the LGBT community in an effort to reform the Catholic Church.
In an interview in October 2020, Strickland stated that the church was “weak” and “not clear” under Francis’ leadership, and dared the pope to fire him.
The bishop had also been under investigation by the Vatican earlier this year due to accusations from Tyler priests and laypeople of making “unorthodox claims.” The Vatican never released the findings of the investigation.
In a September public letter about the investigation, Strickland said that he could not resign, stating that he could not abandon the congregation that the late Pope Benedict XVI entrusted to him.
Strickland was asked to resign on Thursday by Pope Francis, but declined, leading to his removal two days later.
“The only answer I have to that is because forces in the Church right now don’t want the truth of the gospel,” Strickland said during an interview.
WATCH: My exclusive interview with Bishop Strickland, where I ask him all the questions on everyone's heart in the midst of his unjust cancellation.
— John-Henry Westen (@JhWesten) November 12, 2023
It is rare that a bishop is asked to resign from office. At the age of 75, bishops are offered to resign. When the Vatican discovers issues with governance or other problems that require them to leave office, they often pressure him to resign for the good of his diocese and the Catholic Church.
The Knights of the Republic, a group that describes themselves as a “sacred military order for Catholic gentlemen,” announced that a rosary procession will be held in Tyler on November 18 in support of the bishop.
Strickland took to X to comment on the march, asking for a peaceful protest.
I pray that this effort is prayerful, respectful and focused on Jesus. He is the only support I need and I feel the profound embrace of His Sacred Heart. I appreciate the vigorous faith this is inspired by but please remember I am nothing, Jesus is everything. Viva Cristo Rey! https://t.co/KQufzP9Phz
— Bishop J. Strickland (@BishStrickland) November 12, 2023
Strickland is unsure of the future, including where he will live. He stated that he’s in the Lord’s hands and that he’s trusting in God.
“I encourage myself and others to go more deeply than ever into prayer, to pray for Pope Francis, to pray for the church, to pray for a world.”