The Diocese of Tyler, Texas announced on its website today:
“Bishop Joseph Strickland has been relieved of pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese.”
Though shocking that a Bishop would be removed from his Diocese, it should not be shocking when considering the events that lead up to it. Last summer, Rome conducted as Apostolic Visitation of the Diocese of Tyler. Cardinal DiNardo of Houston stated today, that the Visitation recommended that “the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible.” In other words, he should be relieved of his responsibilities as Bishop of Tyler.
Bishop Strickland has been very critical of Pope Francis, and has openly opposed him. In an institution where adherence to the Bishop of Rome is a requirement to remain in communion, those who reject the Pope’s authority, find themselves outside the Catholic Church, or at least in disobedience to the Roman Pontiff.
News reports indicate that on October 31st, Bishop Strickland read a letter from a friend during a conference. The letter attacked the validity of the Pope as successor of Saint Peter, claiming that Pope Francis had pushed aside the valid successor of Peter, Pope Benedict. I wonder if the date was chosen purposefully, since it was a fateful October 31st, 1517 which began an ongoing schism in the Church. I also wonder how Pope Francis “pushed aside” Pope Benedict, when Pope Benedict freely and peacefully resigned as Bishop of Rome.
I came across this afternoon a letter written by a priest of Tyler regarding his outgoing bishop. The letter reveals that many in the Diocese have been hurt during the time of Bishop Strickland. “Seven years ago, something dark descended upon the Diocese of Tyler,” writes Father Kelly. He recommends that Bishop Strickland needs to take some time away from the public, and reflect on all that has unfolded. He continues, “in the past, Bishop Strickland was a nice, unassuming, likable man, but in his addiction to celebrity he has ruined lives and ruptured decades-long friendships.”
The revolt against the legitimately chosen successor of Saint Peter continues, primarily in the United States. I pray for healing and understanding. I pray for a calming of the outrage that blinds, and for Christians to behave in the manner which Jesus calls us to act.
The next few weeks will be interesting, to say the least. As the Bishops of the United States meet in Baltimore later this month, I am certain this will be a major topic of conversation, and there will be much more to read and to report.
Picture used with permission.