Vatican removes Texas bishop who opposed discussions on LGBTQ issues

Pope Francis dismissed Joseph Strickland from his post as bishop for the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, on Saturday. Strickland had criticized the Vatican for engaging in more flexible discussions on LGBTQ issues and the marriage of priests. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI

Nov. 11 (UPI) -- The Vatican, under the direction of Pope Francis, announced Saturday it has dismissed Joseph Strickland after the Texas-based bishop criticized the Church for discussing possible reforms on LGBTQ rights.

Strickland, who was appointed as bishop for the Tyler Diocese in Texas in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, was removed from his post and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin was appointed as apostolic administrator of the same diocese, the Vatican said.

Strickland came under scrutiny in August after writing a letter attacking the papacy for expressing flexibility on discussions of LGBTQ issues and the ban on priests getting married.

"The evil and false messages that has invaded the Church, Christ's Bride, is that Jesus is only one among many, and that it is not necessary for his message to be shared with all humanity," Strickland said in his letter.

Strickland insisted Catholicism does not allow for same-sex marriage or sex outside marriage.

"Through natural Law, God has established that marriage as between one man and one woman," Strickland said.

"Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, male or female, and all people should be helped to discover their true identities as children of God, and not supported in a disordered attempt to reject their undeniable biological and God-given identity," Strickland continued.

Strickland rejected the idea that he should resign voluntarily in a letter published in September.

The Vatican said it had sent two bishops, Gerald Kicanas, Bishop Emeritus of Tucson, and Dennis Sullivan, Bishop of Camden, to the Dioseses of Tyler to investigate Strickland.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Daniel Nicholas DiNardo, said the bishops who were dispatched to conduct an inquiry "into all aspects of the governance and leadership."

DiNardo said Pope Francis made the decision to remove Strickland after considering what the bishops reported after their inquiry.

"The recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible. After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested," DiNardo said.

DiNardo said Strickland's resignation was requested on Thursday and that Pope Francis made the decision to remove him afterwards.