Pope Francis gave the order to remove Bishop Joseph Strickland from his position in Tyler, Texas on Saturday.
The Pope's removal of Strickland, who is a fierce conservative and major critic of the pontiff, is seen by a power play to silence dissent and send a message that conservatives will be pushed out of church leadership.
A statement from the Vatican explained that Pope Francis had “relieved” Bishop Joseph Strickland of the pastoral governance of Tyler and the bishop of Austin has been selected to act as a temporary replacement.
Strickland once accused Pope Francis of “undermining the deposit of faith," as well as blasting the Pope for his efforts to push the normalization and accommodation of LGBTQ+ Catholics.
Strickland's removal is an obvious political move disguised by excuses of complaints made by anonymous individuals of Strickland making"unorthodox" claims which is ironic considering the Pope's extremely unorthodox views.
The Catholic Church has been trending leftward for years under Pope Francis and Catholics like Strickland have found themselves on the outside looking in.
Strickland was investigated earlier this year by the Vatican but the findings were never released confirming speculation that the investigation was an intimidation tactic to try and silence Strickland's constant criticism of the Pope.
Strickland was appointed by Pope Francis's predecessor, the late Pope Benedict XVI, and Strickland repeatedly pointed to the mandate given to him by Pope Benedict for why he would not quietly sit down.
That mandate is why Strickland has refused to resign despite the Vatican reportedly pressuring him to resign multiple times.
One of the official reasons for Strickland's removal was his refusal to comply with Pope Francis's restrictions on using the old Latin Mass.
Strickland told LifeSiteNews that he would not bow down and "I feel very much at peace in the Lord and the truth that he died for."
The Roman Catholic Church is known for its hierarchical structure and strong unity, but all of that is changing and some fear Pope Francis could create a schism with his radical and unorthodox views.
Bishop Strickland told LifeSiteNews on Saturday that "It is a sad day for me, but I'm strong in the Lord. 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 our world. Certainly, I appreciate the prayers and I need them, and to pray for the diocese of Tyler, the many people whose lives are disrupted by this."
This is a serious escalation in what until now has been a relatively cold war between Pope Francis and conservative Catholics.