Last weekend marked a significant and controversial development in the Catholic Church as Pope Francis removed Bishop Joseph Strickland from his Diocese of Tyler, Texas. The decision followed an “exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of the governance and leadership of the diocese” initiated in June, with the recommendation that the “continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, overseeing the Diocese of Tyler, released a statement on Saturday, stating that the reasons for Bishop Strickland’s removal were not yet provided. The bishop, known for his orthodox views, declined to resign when invited, prompting Pope Francis to personally remove him from office.
While initial reports hinted at issues related to governance, financial matters, and basic prudence, a conversation between Bishop Strickland and Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, on November 9 cited concerns about Strickland’s fraternity with other bishops, failure to implement Vatican restrictions on the pre-1969 Latin Mass, outspoken social media presence, and lack of support for the Synod on Synodality.
Bishop Strickland’s outspoken stance on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and his commitment to traditional Catholic teachings have made him a prominent figure among conservative Catholics. He has criticized policies supporting abortion and same-sex “marriage,” labeling them as part of a “godless agenda.” His refusal to align with the Synod on Synodality and his defense of traditional faith have made him a target of scrutiny within the Church.
Interestingly, the timing of the “apostolic visitation” in June coincided with Bishop Strickland leading a prayer procession in response to the honoring of the anti-Catholic hate group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, on the Dodgers’ “Pride Night.” This timing has raised questions about the Vatican’s motives in initiating the inquiry.
The removal of Bishop Strickland has sparked comparisons to the early church father, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who faced multiple exiles for defending authentic faith against the Arian heresy. Athanasius, like Bishop Strickland, stood firm against theological distortions and attacks on core Christian doctrines. The parallels between the two highlight the tension within the Church between adherence to traditional beliefs and the push for doctrinal reinterpretation.
While some bishops with controversial actions, such as Cardinal Blaise Cupich and Cardinals Wilton Gregory and Joseph W. Tobin, remain untouched, the Vatican’s focus on Bishop Strickland suggests a targeted approach against those upholding orthodox Catholic teachings. The irony lies in the Church’s seeming tolerance of actions contrary to traditional teachings while challenging those who remain faithful to established doctrines.
The removal of Bishop Strickland raises critical questions about the direction of the Catholic Church, emphasizing the ongoing struggle between traditionalism and the push for doctrinal change. As Catholics navigate these challenges, Bishop Strickland’s situation serves as a reminder of the importance of standing resolute in the face of pressures that could compromise the integrity of the faith.