After Pope Francis removed one of the most popular Catholic bishops in America, who is also one of the most outspokenly pro-life bishops, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Texas showed up to the meeting of the nation’s Catholic bishops to pray.
There was question about whether Strickland would attend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting since he is still technically a Catholic bishop, just without a flock to lead.
“I figured since I’m in town and didn’t have to go to the meeting, I’d just come here and pray,” Strickland told CNA in a brief interview.
In a five-minute interview outside the hotel, Strickland claimed that the papal nuncio to the U.S., Cardinal Christophe Pierre, asked him not to participate. Pierre, who addressed the bishops Tuesday morning, declined CNA’s interview request Tuesday.
Strickland showed up outside the meeting anyway, he said, because he “already had plans to be here.” He told CNA that he also had committed to leading a rosary outside the meeting. He has led a rosary outside the USCCB meeting in past years as well.
Strickland led the rosary while kneeling. A man kneeling and praying nearby held a sign that read, “We love Bishop Strickland.”
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“Today is a day for living the Lord more fully. And so that’s what we are called to do. And that’s what I would encourage the bishops to just keep refocusing on. I have to, every day when I wake up, remember, what’s this about? It’s about following Jesus Christ,” Strickland told CNA.
“And today is a new day to follow him with joy and hope. His light is as bright as ever. We need to all remember that, and especially my brother bishops,” he said.
Strickland said that he may attend future USCCB meetings, but he thought it best not to do it this year, explaining, “I didn’t want to be a distraction.”
According to a new interview, Strickland said he was sacked because he spoke truth to power.
“I really can’t look to any reason except I’ve threatened some of the powers that be with the truth of the Gospel,” said Strickland. “The only answer I have to that is because forces in the Church right now don’t want the truth of the Gospel. They want it changed. They want it ignored.”
Still, Strickland did not really give a reason why Pope Francis removed him from being a bishop.
Strickland shared that he had been asked to resign on Nov. 9 but that he “couldn’t, of my will, abandon the flock that I’d been given.”
Strickland did not accuse Pope Francis of being part of this push to undermine Church teaching, but he did say that “many forces are working at him and influencing him to make these kinds of decisions.” For those “forces,” the bishop said, “I’m a problem,” and so they pushed for the “removal of a bishop for standing with the Gospel.”
“I encourage myself and others to go more deeply than ever into prayer, to pray for Pope Francis, to pray for the Church, and to pray for our world.”
It’s possible that the Texas diocese under which he serves and Pope Francis removed him with potentially false claims that he was administering his Catholic community poorly and using that as cover for the real reasons, but Strickland seemingly dismissed those concerns.
“No place is perfect, no family is perfect,” he said. “But the diocese is in good shape.”
He also said not administering Pope Francis’ director to remove traditional Latin mass also likely played a role.
“I know I didn’t implement Traditiones Custodes” — the pope’s 2021 restriction of the Traditional Latin Mass — “because I can’t starve out part of my flock,” he said.
What will Strickland do now? There is potential that he could become a Catholic leader in general without any official position or title — but sped his time writing, teaching, speaking out on important topics like pro-life and perhaps working with or starting his own Catholic group.
“I don’t have the answers right now,” Strickland said when asked what the future holds for him. “Lots of questions, lots of empty calendars that will be, I’m sure, filled in different ways.”
In June, the Vatican launched an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, and Bishop Joseph Strickland. The reasons for the investigation of Bishop Strickland were unclear, but appear to resolve around his social media posts — where he actively challenges abortion, takes on leftist woke culture and even questions the Catholic Church when he believes it is going the wrong direction.
In September, there were reports that Pope Francis would apparently ask Bishop Strickland to resign.
According to The Pillar, the pope met with Archbishop Robert Prevost, OSA, head of the Dicastery for Bishops, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States on September 9, with sources close to the Dicastery telling the outlet ahead of the meeting that prelates would present to the pope the results of an apostolic visitation of Stickland’s diocese that was conducted earlier this year, as well as additional public actions taken by Strickland.
“The situation of Bishop Strickland is the agenda,” one senior official close to the dicastery told the outlet, “and the expectation is that the Holy Father will be requesting his resignation — that will certainly be the recommendation put to him.”
While the meeting wasn’t exclusively about Strickland, who has accused the pope of having a “program [for] undermining the Deposit of Faith, the official said that Strickland’s case was set to be the “primary point of discussion” among the church officials.
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“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 report indicates it is unlikely that Pope Francis will remove Strickland as a bishop but that he would urge Strickland to hand in his resignation.
“The consensus in the dicastery is that he will be asked to consider resigning. That has been the substance of discussion among the members.”
“Depending on how the bishop responds, the strength of that encouragement could be increased.”
Responding to the news, Priests for Life National Director Frank Pavone supported Strickland.
“Hopefully, this will not happen, because it would be the last straw for many Catholics in the United States and elsewhere who are seeing within the church the same ideological weaponization of otherwise legitimate processes that we are seeing in the U.S. government against conservatives, pro-life people, and the MAGA movement,” he told LifeNews in a statement.
“What has now become a pattern in the Catholic community ends up weakening the authority of the Church, and the trust that people have in their earthly shepherds. There is no transparency to these processes, which result in clear punishment for no clear crimes,” Pavone added. “Whatever happens, the faithful need to unite in their homes, and in various movements and associations that pursue the goal of preserving the authentic Catholic faith, the pro-life, agenda, and conservative politics. In the end, these movements will do more to preserve the Church and her freedom than many of the left-leaning shepherds are doing.”
Earlier this year, Bishop Strickland called out Joe Biden, saying he’s a “fake Catholic” for falsely claiming the Catholic Church supports abortion.
Biden lied to a Catholic reporter and falsely claimed the nation’s Catholic bishops do not oppose forcing Americans to fund abortions even though the Catholic Church has a longstanding pro-life position against tax-funded abortions.
Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas condemned Biden’s comments and said he was engaging in “fake Catholicism.”
“Mr. Biden can’t be allowed to twist the words of Pope Francis in this way,” Strickland tweeted. “I implore the Vatican press office to emphatically clarify that Pope Francis rightly calls abortion murder. It is time to denounce Biden’s fake Catholicism.”
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