Pope Francis is not happy with extremist U.S. Catholics.
In his latest effort to combat the rise of conservative extremism that has become more concerning in recent years, Pope Francis has “relieved” Texan Bishop Joseph Strickland of his duties within the Diocese of Austin.
Strickland has been an outspoken conservative political figure for years, gaining popularity with his Christian-right followers. The former bishop has been involved in many controversies for his views, including being adamant against pro-LGBTQ policies within the Church.
Pope Francis has taken a different message with LGBTQ Catholics than his predecessors, instead welcoming them into the Church. Whilst Pope Francis still views homosexuality as a sin, he has since walked back this 2021 position and now allows members of the Church to bless same-sex marriages.
Evidenced by these changes in how the Vatican views LGBTQ members, the Pope has been vocally displeased with Strickland’s and other American Catholic leaders’ response to these changes and their language towards LGBTQ individuals. This culminated in a news release that dismissed Strickland from his duties to the disapproval of many American Christians.
Bishop Strickland’s removal is just one instance in a history of animosity between American Catholic dioceses and the Vatican, and as a community, we need to push for a realignment with Vatican values.
The Pope is meant to guide and unify the Church globally, which has already seen a significant decrease in membership. To blatantly disregard the preachings of the Pope and work to further fragment the Church is to work against Catholicism.
The Nicene Creed declares that Catholics “believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God … For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven”. It is our duty to live by his words in accordance with the Scriptures.
In one of his essential teachings, Jesus gave us his commands to Earth, including, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you,” (John 15:12 KJV). Pope Francis is moving to change the Church in a manner more befitting to its mission, accepting and loving all who enter it. Those in the U.S. who fight against the Church’s new mission to be a genuinely accepting institution are fundamentally anti-Catholic.
While Pope Francis has affirmed that he believes homosexuality is a sin, which I vehemently disagree with, as Jesus famously loved any sinner who came upon him. Many verses portray this, like in Matthew 11:19, where Jesus is referred to as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” If homosexuality is a sin, it is still against Scripture to be hateful towards the LGBTQ community.
The extremism that has grown in American Catholicism is not limited to LGBTQ policies, however. Some Catholics have draped the rosary over AR-style rifles to justify and gain support for their extremist ideologies. The perversion of the image of the rosary and all it signifies to support weapons that kill Americans en mass is disgusting and goes against everything the Church is meant to support.
The Church supports loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemy. The rosary represents Jesus’ life and Mary’s, including how Jesus died a violent, painful death for our sins. To use this holy object to promote a weapon that sends innocents to a similar fate is not Catholic. It’s abhorrent. Pope Francis has been taking increasing measures to show his disdain towards growing American Catholic extremism, and it’s time our local Church officials take notice of this problem and work to mitigate it. The American Catholic Church won’t be truly Catholic until they take a cue from the Pope and work to welcome every individual into their doors and start reprimanding officials who preach against Scripture.