After his removal as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, Bishop Joseph Strickland warned against “dark forces” operating within the Catholic Church and called on Catholics to pray for Pope Francis.
The Vatican Press Office and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced simultaneously on Saturday, November 11 that Pope Francis had “relieved the Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Tyler.” Only eight hours later, Strickland gave a long interview in which he revealed that he was requested to resign on November 9 but decided not to “abandon the flock” entrusted to him.
The Vatican announced the temporary appointment of Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin as the Apostolic Administrator sede vacante (vacant see) of the Diocese of Tyler.
In an exclusive interview with Canadian conservative Catholic and pro-life activist John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews, Strickland described his removal as “a storm.”
“I can’t pretend that there are not lots of questions, lots of empty calendar [appointments] that will be filled different ways. But I Rejoice to remain a successor of the Apostles… I need to be humble and I try to approach that with humility,” Strickland said.
Despite the fact that Strickland has been removed from the leadership of the diocese, he continues to be a bishop in good standing in the Catholic Church.
Asked by Westen about his plans for the immediate future, Strickland responded: “I don’t have the answers right now. …I’m in the hands of the Lord as we all are, none of us truly knows what tomorrow holds and I’m able to go through this as an opportunity to really know [more].”
Westen told Strickland that thousands have signed a prayer campaign for him. “I appreciate the prayers for me, but please include prayers especially for Pope Francis, the Roman pontiff,” the bishop replied:
We know we’re living through a time of questions and confusions… and many people walking away; many Catholics are saying, “oh they don’t really believe these things anymore” and to many of those in high places in the Church, at least they’re acting as if they don’t really know the Lord, they don’t really know His Mother.
Strickland also revealed to Westen: “I said [to the Vatican] that I couldn’t resign. I couldn’t, of my will, abandon the flock that I’d been given; but … Pope Francis has the authority to remove me as bishop and he has chosen to do so.”
Galveston-Houston Archbishop Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, on November 11 stated that as a result of the Apostolic Visitation conducted by Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Kicanas of Tucson,
the recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible. After months of careful consideration by the Dicastery for Bishops and the Holy Father, the decision was reached that the resignation of Bishop Strickland should be requested. Having been presented with that request on November 9, 2023, Bishop Strickland declined to resign from office. Thereafter, on November 11, 2023, the Holy Father removed Bishop Strickland from the Office of Bishop of Tyler.
The Diocese of Tyler is part of the ecclesiastical province of Galveston-Houston.
In his interview with Westen, Strickland warned that “there are forces in the Church right now that don’t want the truth of the Gospel. They want to change it, they want it ignored. They want to get rid of the Truth.”
“Pope Francis has the responsibility of making the supreme pontiff’s decisions,” Strickland said. “There are many forces working at him and influencing him to make these kinds of decisions. So I know it becomes frustrating… but that’s why we pray for the pope, for him as a son of God and for his role as the supreme pontiff.”
Regarding the recent pushes to review standing Catholic doctrine, Strickland said that “doctrine and understanding develops, but it develops in this sense of deepening, not reversing its direction.”
“There are forces in the world that want to reverse the direction, want to change moral teachings, want to totally restructure the Church,” he warned. He also reassured Catholics that the Church “continues to be here because she is holy, guided by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit has fostered basic structures in the Church.”
Strickland also expressed hope for the future of his former diocese.
“I truly believe that the Diocese of Tyler that I used to serve a few hours ago is blessed with many seminarians, fine young men, strong, that would be wonderful husbands or wonderful spiritual fathers,” he said. The diocese is also “financially strong [because of the] tremendous generosity from the people,” he added.
“So I really can’t look at any reason [for the dismissal] except I’m threatening some of the ‘powers that be’ with the truth of the Gospel that will not change, that cannot change,” he said. “I have to continue to proclaim the truth with joy and hope, with humor, hopefully with a bright outlook, with the light of Christ guiding me.”
He concluded by urging Catholics “to be more faithful than ever, not allowing this to pull them back from living faithfully and vibrantly and joyful,” and to pray “for the deep abiding conversion of Pope Francis and of all of us to a deeper relationship with the Sacred Heart of Christ.”