27 September 2023, The Tablet

Divisive US bishop says he would not resign if asked

Bishop Joseph Strickland’s robust social media presence has sparked controversy.

Divisive US bishop says he would not resign if asked

Bishop Joseph Strickland has accused Pope Francis of “undermining the Deposit of Faith”.
Associated Press / Alamy

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, has said he has not received any request to resign after an apostolic visitation.

He also told the Religion News Service that he has no intention of resigning even if requested to by Rome.

“As a basic principle I cannot resign the mandate given to me by Pope Benedict the XVI,” Strickland wrote.

“Of course that mandate can be rescinded by Pope Francis, but I cannot voluntarily abandon the flock that I have been given charge of as a successor of the apostles.”

The bishop was the subject of an apostolic visitation earlier this year, led by retired Bishop Gerald Kicanas. The results of such investigations are kept private.

On 9 September, Pope Francis met with the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre and the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Cardinal-designate Robert Prevost, leading some to speculate that Strickland’s tenure was discussed.

Strickland has a robust social media presence, with more than 124,000 followers on X, formerly Twitter, and his postings there have sparked controversy.

Last May, responding to a tweet that questioned whether Pope Francis was really the Pope, Strickland posted: “I believe Pope Francis is the Pope but it is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus.” He has re-tweeted other posts that spoke of Pope Francis in highly negative terms.

Questions about Strickland’s governance of the diocese have also emerged. A significant number of the staff at the diocesan curia have left.

Strickland’s outspoken support for a real estate venture, a Catholic community called “Veritatis Splendor”, has also raised concerns as people are apparently selling their homes elsewhere in the United States to live in Strickland’s jurisdiction.

Removing a bishop is not unprecedented but it is exceedingly rare. Last year, the Pope demanded the resignation of Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Bishop Fernández had clashed with his brother bishops on the island for some years, and his willingness to help people subvert Covid vaccination forced the Vatican to act.

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