Bishop Strickland - Apostolic Visitation

If you have read my recent Catholic Herald article, you will probably be aware of the bishop of Tyler Texas, Bishop Joseph Strickland. As I mentioned, on a recent trip to the USA two things became increasingly obvious. Regular Americans of all stamps are frustrated that bishops seem to be endorsing error and failing to stand up for the faith. Bishop Strickland is considered the most vocal episcopal voice for the faith in the USA. This has led to him being dubbed "America's Bishop", a title last applied to the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. Bishop Strickland recognises the consternation American Catholics feel when their bishops endorse Father James Martin SJ, whose voice grows louder and louder, especially on social media, where he is regularly attacking the deposit of faith, calling Scripture into question, this from just a couple of days ago:

...And this is not a one off, he does it all the time, here is one from last year:

I wrote a blog about that incident here, asking why Fr. Martin is citing a Protestant scholar and suggesting that he has figured out that why Christian tradition has been teaching error for over two thousand years?

He recently has publicly challenged Church teaching on abortion as well. As you can see, I'm not the only one who is dumbfounded by Fr. Martin's high profile (thank you Fr Daniel for standing up for Christ and His Church):

These are not isolated incidents, Fr. Martin's whole raison d'être is to challenge settled Church teaching. And the Pope singles him out for special treatment, praise, personal letters and audiences.

The justification for Fr. Martin's radically unorthodox views is, of course, synodality: the idea that all views must be heard, that we are all journeying together, that all are welcome.

But all views are not welcome. Bishop Strickland's views are certainly NOT welcome despite the fact that he has a huge following a great deal of support from the faithful (where the synod has a less than 2% average response from the faithful). So Pope Francis has sent the heavies along to sort him out.

I think it is important to note here that Tyler has a 2% Catholic population but have 21 men out of a Catholic population of 55,000 in formation for the priesthood. They raised their portion of the bishop's 2021 appeal six months ahead of schedule. The diocese is in good financial shape. It attracts vocations and it attracts families - many people move to Tyler just because of Bishop Strickland.

So what is the justification? I think Bishop Strickland does go out of his way to address the pain faithful Catholics everywhere are feeling. See for example:

This contradicts the Pope - who directly contradicts Catholic teaching and canon law, not by what he says, but by what he does, constantly making overtures to scandalous issues. For example after Pelosi's bishop, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, banned Pelosi from receiving the blessed Sacrament because of her outrageous position on abortion, welcoming her to the Vatican in a very public way and allowing her to receive Holy Communion.

Even this week, a Catholic group I belong to have been discussing the enormous scandal this causes to the faithful, not mention the obvious risk to the unborn as Catholics in politics see the pope's move as an endorsement of Pelosi's pro-abortion position, as highlighted by public opinions like these: 

And let's face it, it is hard to read it any other way!

Bishop Strickland, like a true shepherd, takes these issues and questions head on. He doesn't baulk, he doesn't cower. He just gives the answers from the catechism. He is giving his spiritual children the bread they are asking him to give. And it really seems like he is doing it because he believes it and he cares about them. These are rare traits in the modern episcopacy and they seem, to me at least, fundamentally at odds with Pope Francis' approach.

The biggest issue though, the thing that really seems to have ticked off Rome, is this tweet:

In this one tweet Bishop Strickland really sums up the huge dilemma faithful Catholics across the globe are facing and, it is fair to say, it is quite shocking to see a bishop come out with this.

The Pope is leading people away from Christ and His teaching, not toward Him. The rhetoric about dialogue is meaningless: They only want to hear from dissenting voices, not faithful ones. And the truth is that the faith is about conforming to Christ and seeking holiness. What Pope Francis won't tolerate is dissent and Bishop Strickland's high profile and courage has put him in the firing line. The people want to hear how to live the faith but the Vatican only want to hear from those who won't live their faith, who are against Church teaching on abortion, same sex attraction, women priests, divorce and remarriage or contraception.

Does everyone in the Church have a voice under Pope Francis?

One thing seems very clear to me, removing Bishop Strickland would not be a good move for the Vatican. They may well have underestimated how much support he actually has from the faithful. I know if I was forced to make a choice between the bishop of Tyler or the bishop of Rome with regards to who is authentically transmitting the Apostolic faith at the present time, Tyler would win hands down!



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