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Vatican May Request Resignation of Bishop Joseph Strickland
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It has come to light that Pope Francis recently discussed the possibility of requesting the resignation of Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. The meeting took place on September 9th, with Archbishop Robert Prevost, OSA, who heads the Dicastery for Bishops, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, both cardinals-elect, in attendance.
Bishop Joseph Strickland.
Several sources with knowledge of the matter indicated that the prelates presented the Pope with the findings of an apostolic visitation conducted earlier this year in Bishop Strickland's diocese. Additionally, they discussed the bishop's public actions, as he has emerged as a vocal critic of Pope Francis.
While this audience did not solely revolve around Bishop Strickland, who has previously accused the Pope of undermining the Deposit of Faith, it was reported that Strickland's situation was the primary point of discussion.
One senior official closely linked to the dicastery commented, "The situation of Bishop Strickland is the agenda," and further explained, "the expectation is that the Holy Father will be requesting his resignation â€" that will certainly be the recommendation put to him."
The official highlighted two aspects of concern: the public scandal stemming from Strickland's comments about the Pope and the Synod, and issues within the diocese related to governance, finance, and basic prudence. The apostolic visitation had focused on these concerns within the diocese.
While the prospect of the Pope removing Strickland from his position as bishop of the diocese is considered rare, it is more likely that Pope Francis will be advised to encourage Strickland to resign.
"The consensus in the dicastery is that he will be asked to consider resigning," the official noted. "That has been the substance of discussion among the members."
Depending on Strickland's response, the encouragement to resign could be intensified. This was evident in the recent case of Bishop Richard Stika, who voluntarily announced his resignation as Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee, after losing the confidence of both the Holy See and his own clergy.
Archbishop Robert Prevost, who has been the prefect of the Vatican dicastery since April, is responsible for recommending candidates for episcopal appointments to the Pope. His department oversees disciplinary investigations and processes concerning bishops' acts of governance, ensuring accountability within the episcopate, in accordance with the norms of Vos estis lux mundi and Come una madre amorevole, instituted by Pope Francis.
Bishop Joseph Strickland, aged 64, has served as the Bishop of Tyler since 2012, having previously been a priest in the same diocese. He has gained recognition within the pro-life movement for his staunch defense of human life and his opposition to abortion. Strickland is an active presence on Twitter, with a substantial following.
In recent years, Strickland has voiced his criticism of Pope Francis, particularly in the context of the Holy See's approach to vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also expressed concerns about the Synod and has cultivated a national profile on various issues.
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The Bishop's outspoken nature reached a point where he left a U.S. bishops' conference meeting in Orlando, Florida, to lead a rally in protest of the Los Angeles Dodgers' decision to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBT activist group.
The apostolic visitation of Strickland's diocese was officially confirmed by The Pillar on June 24th, following earlier rumors on social media. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, emeritus of Tucson, and Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden conducted the visitation and submitted their report to the Dicastery for Bishops.
The investigation covered a range of issues. Regardless of the outcome, Strickland has asserted that he will continue to play a public role in the Church's life. As he remarked earlier, "When we're speaking the truth of Jesus Christ, there is no politically correct. And the world can try to shut us down, but it won't work."
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