Pope Francis is weighing a resignation request from a conservative bishop who has been outspoken in Northeast Texas.
According to The Pillar’s report, the Holy Father met with Cardinal-elect Robert Prevost on Sept. 9, and Bishop Joseph Strickland from the Archdiocese Tyler. Prevost, who is the Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops (the body that recommends the appointment of new Bishops), and Pierre, the Vatican’s national ambassador to the United States, are both responsible for the recommendation of new Bishops.
Unnamed sources told the publication that “the situation of Bishop Strickland” was on the agenda and they expected the Holy Father to ask for his resignation.
In recent years, Strickland gained fame for his opposition to abortion, vaccination mandates, as well as LGBTQ ideology.
Strickland criticized President Joe Biden in January for his support for taxpayer funding of abortions. He argued, “It’s time to denounce Biden’s fake Catholicism.”
He accused Pope Francis of “undermining” the Deposit of Faith, which is the term used by Catholics to describe the divine authority Catholics think has been given to the presumed successor of the Apostle Peter. Strickland made the statement to make it clear that he disagrees that a conservative Catholic Podcaster has claimed that Francis isn’t the legitimate pope. However, he also implicitly supported the podcaster’s criticisms of Francis for his embrace of lockdowns, the COVID-19 vaccinations, and failing to defend the church’s traditional beliefs on abortion, divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality.
Please allow me to clarify regarding, “Patrick Coffin has challenged the authenticity of the Pope Francis.” If this is accurate I disagree, 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.
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) May 13, 2023
Strickland also led a prayer event outside Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles in June. The event featured a group of drag performers known as “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” whose member was arrested recently for “indulging himself” in public. The local archdiocese encouraged Catholics to pray in response to this event. However, it did not endorse the rally outside the stadium for fear of confrontation or portraying Catholics negatively.
Strickland received a visit from emissaries of the Vatican in Tyler later that month. He compared it to being “called to the principal’s desk” and said he was under investigation for “just preaching the truth.”
Strickland has been on the Vatican’s radar for the past two years.
Strickland, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2021, was confronted by Archbishop Christophe Pierre who told him to lower his rhetoric, because “we are watching you.”
Strickland, when contacted by Religion News Service to comment on the report about the pope meeting, said that he hadn’t heard anything from the Vatican. Strickland also said he wouldn’t resign if asked.
In an email, he said: “I cannot resign my mandate as a matter of principle given by Pope Benedict XVI.” “Of course, that mandate can still be revoked by Pope Francis, but I cannot abandon the flock I was given as a follower of the apostles.”
Some critics are worried that conservative Catholics will view Strickland as a martyr if Francis removes him.
Massimo Faggioli is a professor at Villanova University who teaches theology and religious study. He expressed his concern in May to Religion News Service when it was revealed that Strickland had acted inappropriately with Pierre.
Faggioli stated, “I think that the fear that if he is removed, his visibility would be amplified.”
Strickland, however, insists that his priority is to spread the gospel of Christ and is not trying to make himself a name.
Many have been prompted to speak out on my behalf. I appreciate the support but I want the focus always to be on Christ alone, not me. I’m not asking for or supporting any press conferences or demonstrations like one being held today in DC, I just want people to follow Christ.
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) September 14, 2023
The recent comments echo those he made in a podcast episode from July.
Strickland said, “Really, this isn’t really about me. It’s about our faith and the truth.”
He said that nothing could stop him from his mission. “I am willing to do anything to continue proclaiming this message because I love God’s people and we want to share the good news about Jesus Christ.”
He continued, “They won’t be able to stop me.” When we speak the truth about Jesus Christ, it’s not politically correct. The world may try to silence us, but it will not work.
Pope Francis and the Vatican may have something to say, but it does not appear that Bishop Strickland is going anywhere anytime soon.