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Letter #129, 2023, Thurs, Sep 28: Strickland

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas

    Letter #129, 2023, Thursday, September 28: Will Pope Francis ask Bishop Strickland to resign?

    Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, has been much in the news recently because of reports — which have not yet been confirmed — that Pope Francis may soon decide to ask Strickland for his resignation.

    (Strickland is 64 and in good health; bishops normally go into retirement, submitting a letter of resignation, when they turn 75. So such a request by Pope Francis would be quite unusual.)

    Here is a link to one such report, published by The Pillar on September 11, entitled “Francis meets to discuss Strickland resignation” (link).

    Here is the essential passage in that report:

    “At a meeting Saturday, Pope Francis discussed with Vatican officials the prospect of requesting the resignation of Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, The Pillar has learned.

    “The pope met Sept. 9 with Archbishop Robert Prevost, OSA, head of the Dicastery for Bishops, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States – both cardinals-elect.

    “Several sources close to the dicastery told The Pillar ahead of the meeting that the prelates would present the pope with the results of an apostolic visitation of Stickland’s diocese, conducted earlier this year [Note: June 19-24] as well as subsequent public actions by the bishop, who has emerged as an outspoken critic of the Holy Father.

    “‘The situation of Bishop Strickland is the agenda,’ one senior official close to the dicastery told The Pillar, “and the expectation is that the Holy Father will be requesting his resignation [Note: emphasis added] — that will certainly be the recommendation put to him.'”


    Is it orthodox doctrine or “other issues”?

    The Vatican is underlining, it appears, that there are “other issues” involved in this case besides doctrinal ones — for Strickland is known to have warned about the danger of heresy which seems to threaten the synodal process now underway in the Church, and to have urged Pope Francis to guard “the deposit of the faith” with very great care, suggesting that he is at risk of not doing so.

    Here is what The Pillar says:

    “’There are two aspects,’ the official said, ‘there is the matter of the public scandal from all these comments about the pope and the synod, but there are also real problems in the diocese. Those were the focus of the visitation; there are concerns in the diocese about governance, about financial matters, about basic prudence.’ The official predicted that the pope was unlikely to decide to depose Strickland as bishop of his diocese, a canonically rare act, but told The Pillar that Pope Francis would be advised to encourage the bishop to resign. ‘The consensus in the dicastery is that he will be asked to consider resigning,’ the official said… ‘Depending on how the bishop responds, the strength of that encouragement could be increased,” the official said, and cited the case of Bishop Richard Stika who announced his resignation as Bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., earlier this year after being informed he no longer had the confidence of either the Holy See or his own clergy.”

    The Catholic Herald on September 15 reported that “Bishop Strickland’s tenure has coincided with positive signs of spiritual and administrative health in Tyler. At present 21 men are in priestly formation for the territory of only 55,000 Catholics, a rate of seminarians-per-Catholic considerably higher than most other U.S. dioceses. The diocese is also reportedly in good financial shape, exemplified in part by its ability to raise 99 per cent of its $2.3 million goal for the 2021 bishop’s appeal six months ahead of schedule.” (link)


    A German cardinal defends Strickland

    Though nothing of this alleged “possible decision” of Pope Francis has been made public, one cardinal close to the late Pope Benedict XVI, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, has said that, even if the Pope does ask Strickland to resign, Strickland should not resign.

    A Lifesitenews September 21 article entitled “Cardinal Mueller defends Bishop Strickland: ‘He should definitely not resign'” reports Mueller’s opinion at this link.

    “It is terrible what is being done to Bishop Strickland, an abuse of office against the divine right of the episcopate,” Müller said.

    “If I could advise Bishop Strickland, he should definitely not resign, because then they [Vatican authorities] can wash their hands of it,” added the German cardinal.


    Strickland’s statement

    Strickland himself issued a statement on his bishop’s website on September 20 (link).

    Strickland said that he does not wish to resign, but that he respects the authority of Pope Francis “if he removes me from my office of bishop of Tyler.”

    Here is that part of Strickland’s statement (the full statement is below):

    “I have said publicly that I cannot resign as Bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI. I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as Bishop of Tyler. I love Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church which He established. My only desire is to speak His Truth and live God’s Will to the best of my ability.”

    And here is Strickland’s full statement:

    September 20, 2023

    Dear Flock of the Diocese of Tyler,

    I realize you may have heard information about me that is concerning and possibly confusing.

    I thought it would be good for you to hear directly from me, hopefully I can alleviate some concerns and clarify any confusion. As you probably know there was an Apostolic Visitation of the diocese conducted the week of June 19-24. Bishop Kicanas, retired from Tuscan, Arizona and Bishop Sullivan, from Camden, New Jersey spent the week interviewing various people about the condition of the diocese and concluded by interviewing me.

    I have not heard from any Church official from Rome since the visitation concluded on June 24. I was not given a reason for the visitation, and I have not received any report since.

    Last week an article was published on a website called, “The Pillar”, and the article alleged that a meeting was held with Pope Francis where some of the members of the Congregation for Bishops recommended that I be encouraged to resign as Bishop of Tyler. Let me be clear that I have received no communication from Rome regarding this. At this point it is simply and article discussing supposed leaked information from the Vatican.

    I have said publicly that I cannot resign as Bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI. I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as Bishop of Tyler. I love Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church which He established. My only desire is to speak His Truth and live God’s Will to the best of my ability.

    In closing let me share my profound gratitude for the support and prayers that so many of you have expressed to me. I continue to love serving as your shepherd and thankfully during all of this I have been able to visit many of your parishes and celebrate our Catholic faith with you.

    I am blessed in my personal prayer in which I feel very close to the Lord and supported by the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints. Your prayers are a tremendous support as well. I am at peace with whatever the Lord’s call for me is, let us continue to pray for Pope Francis, the Church, and the Diocese of Tyler that we call home.

    God bless you and all who are dear to you.

    Sincerely in Christ’s Name,

    Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland
    Bishop of Tyler

    Live podcast with Bishop Strickland

    Given the importance and complexity of this matter, we asked Bishop Strickland to join us on a live podcast tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Texas time, 10 a.m. U.S. east coast time, and 4 p.m. Rome time. —RM    


    So do consider joining us live tomorrow, Friday, September 29th at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for a special Live discussion with Bishop Strickland and Father Charles Murr. You can watch live on YouTube here or on Rumble here. You can also watch live on Twitter here or Facebook here.

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