The Pontificate of Purges: Ten Years of Defenestrations

It’s not only Strickland. The long series of bishops removed prematurely by Pope Francis has accelerated in the last year and a half: strike one to educate a hundred. Each individual case is perplexing, but the total number is shocking. We are talking about the defenestrations of bishops by Pope Francis, which have marked his entire pontificate.

The latest egregious case was that of the Bishop of Tyler (see here), Msgr Joseph Strickland, who, after pressure from the Nuncio for his ‘voluntary’ resignation, was removed from his diocese, without any explanation being given. There is no record of any financial or sexual scandal against him, still less that he was guilty of heresy (which would probably have advanced his career); more simply, Strickland seems to have committed the crime of lèse-majesté, repeatedly taking positions not pleasing to the ecclesiastical Politburo: resistance to vaccines based on foetal cell lines, opposition to the blessing of gay couples, resistance to Traditionis Custodes. And then that unforgivable vice of wanting to continue to have numerous seminarians: 21 in training, in a diocese of just over 130,000 baptised and 84 priests.

A vice that Strickland shares with another bishop caught in the crosshairs: Msgr Domique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, in whose diocese priestly ordinations have been frozen for over a year, and an apostolic visitation is in progress. The solution seems to be on the horizon: according to Jean-Marie Guénois (see here) it would be an “honourable way out (…) both for Msgr Rey – who remains in his post – and for his pastoral work”. It would be the appointment as coadjutor of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulone of Msgr François Touvet, Bishop of Châlons en Champagne, who would flank Msgr Rey with right of succession; a sort of diarchy for the four years separating Rey from the fateful 75 years. Or more realistically, if one thinks of what happened to the Bishop of Albenga-Imperia, Msgr Mario Oliveri, a freezing of the ordinary bishop’s faculties. It is rather difficult to understand how a bishop’s full power of jurisdiction over his diocese and the sharing out of this jurisdiction with a coadjutor can stand together.

But Strickland and Rey are the latest in a long series that, in our recollection, had begun with the removal on 25 September 2014 of the Bishop of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Msgr Roger Ricardo Livieres Plano, a member of Opus Dei, who had refused to resign under pressure from the Holy See. Several criticisms weighed on him: having taken in a US priest accused of abuse of a boy over 18, whose case was later dismissed for lack of evidence; mismanagement of diocese funds; and then the great fault of having wanted to erect an independent seminary in his own diocese.

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NOTE: Clerics cited in this article have been included in the table below, along with other clerics we believe need to be included.

The Pope's Purges

Conservative clerics removed upon the pontificate of Pope Francis. Retirements of conservative clerics at age 75 are included in this list due to the fact that the pope usually asking liberal clerics to stay on beyond normal retirement age. High profile priests also included due to the fact the Vatican likely had a hand in their removal. Partial source for list can be found at https://lanuovabq.it/it/il-pontificato-delle-purghe-dieci-anni-di-defenestrazioni. Have a suggested addition? Send us an email at info@complicitclergy.com.
ClericCountryYearActionDetails
Aguer, Bishop Hector
Bishop of La Plata
Argentina2018RetiredLink
Altman, Father James
Pastor, St. James the Less, La Crosse, WI
United States2021RemovedLink
Aupetit, Archbishop Michel
Archbishop of Paris
France2021Forced ResignationLink
Burke, Cardinal Raymond
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
United States2014RemovedLink
Caffarra, Cardinal Carlo
John Paul II Institute On Marriage and Family
Italy2016RemovedLink
Cavina, Bishop Francesco
Bishop of Capri
Italy2019Forced ResignationLink
Chaput, Archbishop Charles
Archbishop of Philadelphia
United States2020RetiredLink
D'Ercole, Bishop Giovanni
Bishop of Ascoli Piceno
Italy2020Forced ResignationLink
Elst, Bishop Tebartz-Van
Bishop of Limburg
Germany2014RemovedLink
Finn, Bishop Robert
Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO
United States2015Forced ResignationLink
Ganswein, Archbishop Georg
Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary
Germany2023RemovedLink
Haas, Archbishop Wolfgang
Archbishop of Vaduz
Liechtenstein2023RetiredLink
Holley, Bishop Martin
Bishop of Mephis
United States2018PunishLink
Livieres Plano, Bishop Rogelio Ricardo
Bishop of Ciudad del Este
Paraguay2014RemovedLink
Morandi, Archbishop Giacomo
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Italy2022ReassignedLink
Muller, Cardinal Gerhard
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Germany2017RemovedLink
Oliveri, Bishop Mario
Albenga-Imperia
Italy2016Forced ResignationLink
Pavone, Father Frank
Priests for Life
United States2021LacizedLink
Pell, Cardinal George
Council of Cardinals
Australia2018RemovedLink
Perea, Bishop Pedro Daniel Martinez
Bishop of San Luis
Argentina2020Forced ResignationLink
Pozzo, Bishop Guido
Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei
Italy2019Abolised CommissionLink
Rey, Bishop Dominique
Fréjus-Toulon
France2023RemovedLink
Sarah, Cardinal Robert
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
Africa2021Forced ResignationLink
Strickland, Bishop Joseph
Bishop of Tyler
United States2023RemovedLink
Tai-Fai, Archbishop Savio Hon
Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
China2017RemovedLink
Taussig, Bishop Eduardo Maria
Bishop of San Rafael
Argentina2022Forced ResignationLink
Torres , Bishop Daniel Fernandez
Bishop of Arecibo
Puerto Rico2022RemovedLink
Treco, Father Vaugh
Pastor, Church of St. Bede the Venerable, St. Louis Park, MN
United States2019ExcommunictedLink
Vigano, Archbishop Carlo Maria
Papal Nuncio to the US
Italy2016ReplacedLink
White, Father Mark
Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, VA
United States2021RemovedLink
Zen, Cardinal Joseph
Bishop of Hong Kong
China2022Thrown to the WolvesLink
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