On November 11, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas was relieved of his position by Pope Francis. It was a long time coming. Mike Lewis, in his article, “On Strickland’s Removal” (Where Peter Is, 11-11-23) summed up the many reasons why, and I will in turn summarize them as briefly as I can. Bp. Strickland’s own words will be in blue.
On July 8, 2022, Strickland shared a link to a video entitled “Pope Francis, Nancy Pelosi & the Tyrannical Culture of Death.” The video (dated 7-3-22) was produced by the reactionary publication The Remnant, and consists of editor Michael Matt bashing Pope Francis. Bp. Strickland described the video as “A sad commentary on the Church and state in our time.” Brian Killian, in an article about this on the same day, cited some of the material in the video:
- “Rome and Pope Francis have lost teaching authority.”
- “I have no temptation to leave my Church for the same reason that Francis is always attacking it, because it’s the true Church and a diabolically disoriented clown like Francis knows that it is it’s his job to destroy this Church because he has to get rid of true religion.”
- “Francis isn’t even pretending to be a moral authority on anything other than climate change and equity.”
- “This pope is preaching an entirely new gospel, and under his guidance the Catholic Church, which used to be consider the light on the hill…the Catholic Church cannot now be trusted.”
- “Francis is in opposition to 2000 years of Church teaching.”
- Christian teaching “is all being gradually undermined by the Francis experiment, which of course is just a continuation of the experiment of the Second Vatican Council”
Quite possibly in reaction against Killian’s article, Bp. Strickland tweeted the next day: “My intention with this was not to disparage Pope Francis but to acknowledge how devastating this commentary is.” But he neither removed nor apologized for the original Tweet, or expressed any disagreement with it. In fact, on July 12, 2022, Bp. Strickland appeared on Virgin Most Powerful Internet Radio and defended the video:
[he decided to post a link to the video on his Twitter page because] as a bishop, as a shepherd, I promised to guard the deposit of faith. And I have an obligation to do that. And the deposit of faith is under attack . . . this speaks truth, and it needs to be addressed. . . . The most loving, respectful, and obedient thing I can do for Pope Francis, for all the cardinals of the Roman Curia, for every bishop, every priest is to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. . . . I didn’t see anything [in the video] that wasn’t true.
Mike Lewis accurately predicted over a year ago (July 13, 2022): “A fix for this disharmony between bishop and pope in the near future does not appear likely. So the only question is when, and if, Francis will relieve him of his duties.”
Bp. Strickland has, as Killian noted, “publicly and repeatedly praised and supported” [tweet now removed] the controversial suspended priest, Fr. James Altman. . . . He has shared videos featuring Altman that have scandalized members of the faithful with racist content, foul language . . .” I followed the link that Killian provided, on Internet Archive. The latter, in a scan dated March 25, 2022, shows what was removed from Bp. Strickland’s Twitter page (originally dated 5-24-21):
Fr James Altman is in trouble for speaking the truth. I originally supported him when he spoke bold truth during the election. I continue to support him for speaking the truth in Jesus Christ. He inspires many to keep the faith during these dark days. Let us pray for him.
This was retweeted 921 times and had 4,166 likes and 373 comments, as of the date of the scan I found. Killian observed that Bp. Strickland had “repeatedly and regularly promoted conspiracy theories, . . . misinformation, dissent from the Magisterium, and opposition to Pope Francis and his teachings.”
On May 12, 2023, Bp. Strickland tweeted: “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.” As of this writing, this blasphemous, slandering, scandalous tweet had garnered 324,000 views, 439 comments, 621 retweets, and 2,600 likes. Mike Lewis commented on this the next day:
With this tweet, Bishop Strickland appears to have finally crossed the line into direct and explicit opposition to Pope Francis and his teaching authority. In the past, Strickland has hinted that he holds such opinions about the pope, but typically stopped short of stating them explicitly. . . . He also signed an open letter [dated 9-16-22] last year accusing Pope Francis of teaching heresy in the apostolic letter Desiderio Desideravi.
Mike Lewis wrote in his article dated 11-11-23:
Since June, Bishop Strickland’s rhetoric and actions have only become more extreme. Just a few days ago, LifeSiteNews released the full transcript of a speech Strickland delivered in Rome on October 31. In his speech, Strickland read aloud a letter from a “dear friend” that espoused explicitly sedevacantist ideas and alluded to passages in scripture suggesting that Pope Francis is the Antichrist.
Lewis provided more details about this letter in an article dated 11-8-23:
He then described his friend as “a deep, deep believer, a lover of our Lord Jesus Christ, a true disciple, a lover of the Church, a lover of the Petrine office in every aspect of our Catholic faith.” And he said that he received this letter as “a deeply challenging message to me,” adding, “it’s not just to me, it’s to all of us. It says some strong things. But I want to assure you that this friend has a deep love for Christ and His Church, for Pope Francis.”
Parts of this letter were posted on LifeSite a week ago, including its opening sentences:
Francis is an expert at producing cowards by preaching dialogue and openness in a welcoming spirit and by highlighting always his own authority. He makes it seem that one who opposes him and what he proposes is an enemy of the Church. And yet it is not the blood of the cowards that is the seed of the Church. It is the blood of the martyrs. . . .
As inflammatory and insulting as those comments are, the November 1 article left out the most controversial sections of the letter read by the bishop, including statements that openly reject the legitimacy of Pope Francis’s pontificate, such as (emphasis added), “Would you now allow this one who has pushed aside the true Pope and has attempted to sit on a chair that is not his define what the Church is to be. ‘As for the beast, it was and is not. It is an eighth but it belongs to the seventh, and it goes to destruction.’”
This statement — essentially a declaration of sedevacantism — caused Strickland to pause and interject, “You’re probably smarter than I am. I’m not sure what that last part is talking about, and I didn’t have the chance to ask.” The last sentence was a quote from scripture — Revelation 17:11 — a passage historically interpreted by anti-Catholic Protestants as a reference to the pope as a false ruler on the road to perdition. This argument has more recently been adopted by schism-minded Catholics as a reference to Pope Francis.
Nevertheless, Strickland continued to read the letter, which next suggested that Francis is an “usurper” who supports abortion and does not believe repentance is necessary for salvation (emphasis added):
Christ has proclaimed the sanctity of life. It cannot be otherwise than sanctified, because He has created it, and He has died for it. And yet this usurper of Peter’s chair has counted life as nought, for he has endangered souls by proclaiming that they are justified before God as they are, with no need of repentance. And he has welcomed those who glorify abortion and has offered to correct no correction, thereby counting the lives of all those babies who have perished in this manner as nothing.
The letter concludes with what its author (and the bishop) likely see as a courageous battle cry:
Play nicely? While the devil leads souls to hell? Play nicely? While Francis proclaims the devil’s voice to be the voice of the Holy Spirit? The streets of Rome are now littered with cowards. Where is the one who will say with Ignatius of Antioch, ‘Now I begin to be a disciple. Let fire and Cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment, come upon me. So long as I attain to Jesus Christ.’ . . .
After reading the letter, Bishop Strickland commented, “As I said, those are challenging words.” He also said, “Hopefully you’ll agree that that letter from a friend that I just shared reminds us, this part of our walk—for every one of us here, men and women, clergy, laity, all of us—this is a very challenging portion of our Emmaus walk of faith.” . . .
Strickland made it very clear later in his speech that he does not intend to stop, saying,
And frankly, one of the most frustrating things that’s coming out of the Vatican and supported, at least, by Pope Francis, is the attack on the sacred.
I note in passing (for those who may be wondering) that I disagree with Mike Lewis about President Trump, some aspects of the COVID vaccine and how it was implemented and forced on people, and about pro-abortion politicians receiving Holy Communion (and on some of these issues I would actually agree — to varying degrees – with Bp. Strickland’s stated positions). If Mike actually votes Democrat in this day and age, I think that is ludicrous and indefensible (since virtually all high-level Democrats nowadays are pro-aborts, and usually favor abortion up to the day of birth).
But what I do cite from his words, I agree with. He has done the needed reporting on this loose cannon, and has been prophetic in his warnings. If people had heeded his words a year ago, they would have been aware of Bp. Strickland’s serious errors and wouldn’t have been so shocked at his removal (not to mention hopefully prevented from following this dangerous man).
Brian Fraga, writing for National Catholic Reporter (11-11-23) quoted a priest in Bp. Strickland’s diocese:
Fr. Tim Kelly, . . . told NCR that Strickland “used to be a nice, unassuming, likable man” until he reached a sort of “celebrity” status among hardline conservative Catholics. Kelly said the bishop “ruined lives and ruptured decades-old friendships,” as his stature grew in traditionalist circles.
“Families have stopped going to Mass because of his unkind words,” Kelly said. “He needs time for reflection. He needs time to rebuild the bridges he burned when anger and certainty of his own righteousness consumed him.”
I’m interested in how various people and parties have responded to these developments. Do they reject sedevacantism and the extreme radical Catholic reactionary views that Bp. Strickland has expressed, or do they dig in and further the conspiratorial and quasi-schismatic mentality and mindset? From the known reactionaries and their confused fellow travelers and pope-bashers or papal nitpickers (all nattering nabobs of negativism), the response was utterly predictable:
Eric Sammons, editor at the reactionary Crisis Magazine, tweeted:
Seeing the viciousness of attacks on Bishop Strickland following his removal by the pope from people who probably never heard of him until recently reminds me how many Catholics treat Catholicism as a cult of the pope.
Pope-basher Philip Lawler joined in:
If you’re an American bishop inclined to question the Pope’s leadership– which at this point means any bishop interested in preserving the faith intact– you just got an unmistakable message.
So did Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
Insecure, mediocre leaders always quash their critics with force. In today’s world they do so while telling everyone how they are “good listeners”.
John-Henry Westen, the big cheese at the pathetic LifeSite News rag, wrote: “Let’s stand with Bishop Joseph Strickland!”
Bishop Strickland will probably go down in history as an ‘Athanasius of the Church in the USA,’ who however, unlike St. Athanasius, is not persecuted by the secular power, but incredibly by the Pope himself. It seems that a kind of “purge” of Bishops, who are faithful to the immutable Catholic Faith and the Apostolic discipline, and which has been going on already for some time, has reached now a decisive phase.
Michael J. Matt, bigwig at The Remnant, tweeted:
This is total war. Francis is a clear and present danger not only to Catholics the world over but also to the whole world itself. It appears now that he is actively trying to bury fidelity to the Church of Jesus Christ. Let him be anathema.
And again: “God bless you, Bishop Strickland, and thank you for showing us how it’s done. God wins in the end.”
The removal of His Excellency Archbishop Joseph Strickland, especially after the failure to ambush him with the Apostolic Visitation, appears as a cowardly form of authoritarianism, . . . This affair will reveal who stands with the true Church of Christ and who chooses to stand with His declared enemies. To remain silent and endure this umpteenth violation of the most basic principles of justice and truth is to make oneself complicit with a subverter.
The extreme reactionary Peter Kwasniewski (the great Vatican ONE basher) pontificated:
What were the “crimes”? The same question was asked about Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres (indeed, he asked it himself), and the same crickets in response. Tyranny pure and simple.
Timothy Gordon didn’t want to miss out on the surreal, deluded love-feast, either: “Prayers and thanks for you, Bishop Strickland. I’m so sorry that you too—like all of us—are a parish orphan with an abusive stepfather in Rome.”
I’m blocked on Taylor Marshall’s Twitter page, so I can’t see what he wrote. But I don’t feel like vomiting today, anyway.
Much better is the response of my good friend and fellow Michigander and Catholic apologist Steve Ray (a strong papal critic but not a reactionary). At first he tweeted:
The feared news falls as the Pope cuts a good bishop off at the kneecaps. And why? Good question. We will await an answer. It seems the Pope will broach no opposition or “rigidness”. This will paralyze other bishops who fear the heavy-handed tactics of Francis and his Vatican.
But then within three hours on the same day (11-11-23) he wrote:
There have come to my attention some things said by Bishop Strickland just recently about Pope Francis and the chair of Peter. I’m looking into it more extensively, but if true, it is troubling.
Because Steve is not a reactionary he makes the absolutely correct response: rejection of the poisonous error of sedevacantism, or if not that, extreme, irrational, venomous, hysterical papal bashing. The rest just go right on, oblivious, not missing a beat, the blind leading the blind, in their literal hatred of the Holy Father, while the American Catholic Church continues to go to hell in a handbasket, with endless conspiratorialism, “Americanist” rejection of authority, tragic, counterproductive division and contentiousness, and slanderous scandal-mongering.
Meanwhile, souls are being lost every minute, and how many Protestants or Orthodox Christians would want to join a Church with this sort of idiotic in-fighting occurring within it? Speaking for myself, though, as an evangelical (which I was from 1977-1990), I would have immediately seen right through this travesty: the ludicrous, highly ironic spectacle of Catholics who either relentlessly trash and lie about their own (theologically orthodox) pope or deny that he even is the pope? That would have immediately appeared more ridiculous and worthless to me than the sentence, “water isn’t wet.”
Lastly, I hasten to add that many people out there knew of Bp. Strickland (before the latest events) mainly from his statements on morality that they agreed with, and were unaware of the extreme opinions such as those I documented above. That’s fine. We’re not responsible for what we don’t know. I never read anything about him or his own words before this incident, by the way. But anyone who has read this article no longer has any excuse of ignorance.
Whoever supports this dissenter, knowing the above information, partakes of his sins, his quasi-schismatic, quasi-sedevacantist mentality, and his indefensible, utterly unCatholic rebellion. Don’t do it! If you don’t want — no longer believe in — a pope and the papacy that God has provided for you, become an Anglican or other kind of Protestant, or Orthodox, and cease annoying us with your anti-Catholic inanities and vapid polemics.
See also Michael Lofton’s excellent videos about Bp. Strickland:
Bishop Strickland’s Accusation of Pope Francis (June 2023)
Is Bishop Strickland on His Way Out? (August 2023)
Is Bishop Strickland on His Way Out? (11-4-23)
Is Bishop Strickland on His Way Out? (11-9-23)
Bishop Strickland Removed by Pope Francis! (11-11-23)
Photo credit: Peytonlow (11-28-12); Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler pictured blessing the faithful during his Mass of Ordination and Installation on 28 November 2012 in Tyler, Texas. [Wikipedia / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License]
Summary: I document the extreme statements of Bp. Joseph Strickland, that led to his removal, & chronicle the pathetic reactions to same from reactionaries & pope-bashers.