Story by Tobi Raji, Michelle Boorstein
Pope Francis has removed one of his most visible American critics from diocesan leadership, a Texas firebrand who said Francis was “undermining” the faith by discussing the place of LGBTQ+ communities and women in the Catholic Church.
The Vatican announced Bishop Joseph Strickland’s removal from the Diocese of Tyler, Tex., on Saturday, though it did not give a reason.
Strickland is among the most strident high-profile U.S. Catholic clergy who have for years opposed Francis, saying that the pope’s theology violates their faith and that his apparent openness on social issues is an existential danger to Catholicism. They have pushed against Francis’s emphasis on social issues — such as protecting the environment, loosening migration rules, addressing poverty, and welcoming more women and the LGBTQ+ community. Francis has, in their view, promoted those issues over their antiabortion message — the top priority of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But Strickland had tested the waters further, telling his flock that the pope is undermining the Catholic faith. He wrote in an August letter that an “evil and false message” had infiltrated the church, partially referring to the pope’s outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics. Strickland also endorsed a video that called Francis a “diabolically disoriented clown.”…