Controversial comments earn bishop a ‘Vatican visit’

controversial comments

The Vatican has launched a formal investigation into Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, a figure known for his controversial statements.

Among the comments, Strickland accused Pope Francis of undermining the Catholic faith.

This investigation, known as an apostolic visitation, was confirmed by Elizabeth Slaten, the Diocese of Tyler, Texas communications director.

Slaten revealed that the visitation took place over several days the previous week.

Still, she refrained from disclosing further details regarding the purpose of the visitation or the individuals responsible for conducting it.

“I’m not free to speak on behalf of Mother Church and the nuncio,” Slaten commented.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Washington DC, the Vatican’s embassy in the United States, has not responded to inquiries regarding the investigation.

Francis a “diabolically disordered clown”

In an interview in October 2020, Strickland described the church under Francis’ leadership as “weak” and “not clear”.

Strickland even dared the pope to remove him from his position.

On Twitter, the bishop endorsed videos labelling the current pontiff as a “diabolically disordered clown.”

With a Twitter following of nearly 124,000, Strickland has utilised his social media platform to disseminate anti-vaccine messages during the COVID-19 pandemic and to undermine other bishops by expressing support for priests disciplined by their respective dioceses.

Additionally, Strickland has taken firm partisan political positions, labelling President Joseph Biden – an abortion rights-supporting Catholic – as an “evil president”.

In 2020, Strickland endorsed a contentious video by reactionary priest Fr James Altman, which asserted that Catholics could not vote for Democrats in political elections.

Strickland participated in a rally organised by former President Donald Trump supporters, who sought to overturn Biden’s election victory.

Private resolution fails

In 2021, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s representative in the United States, personally rebuked Strickland regarding his Twitter activity.

However, attempts to address the issue through private conversations were unsuccessful. Instead, the bishop’s remarks have become more provocative.

The investigation launched by the Vatican reflects growing concerns regarding Strickland’s controversial remarks and actions.

Strickland, appointed as the fourth bishop of the Tyler diocese by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, has garnered attention in recent years for his outspoken and confrontational approach, publicly challenging Pope Francis’ leadership and criticising his fellow bishops.

Strickland’s scepticism regarding Pope Francis’ fidelity to the Catholic faith was evident in a tweet on May 12, where he affirmed his belief in Pope Francis’ papacy but expressed his rejection of the pontiff’s alleged undermining of the Deposit of Faith.

As the apostolic visitation progresses, its findings may have significant implications for the diocese and the bishop’s future role.


National Catholic Reporter

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