Those forced to follow the odious thing called “ecclesial politics” will note that Bp. Joseph Strickland, easily the worst bishop in the US Church, got relieved of his post in the diocese of Tyler, Texas this past weekend.
That doesn’t mean he is not a bishop anymore, still less that he is laicized or excommunicated. Just that he is no longer running a diocese.
The bishop has been turning and turning in a widen gyre, a falcon who can no longer hear the falconer. The empty wind in his ears has mingled with the roaring applause and adoration of the Francis-hating MAGA cult to which he has increasingly become dedicated instead of to the gospel of Christ and the unity of the Catholic communion.
His hostility to the Holy Father first emerged on to the national stage when another kook, Abp Vigano, hurled a bomb into the Church in the form of an accusation that Francis (the only Pope to have actually done something about the abuser Cdl. McCarrick) was somehow guilty of not doing anything about Cdl. McCarrick. The whole thing was a carefully coordinated coup attempt by Vigano, who leveled the charges, backed by right wing Catholic media calls for Francis to resign–and echoed by the voice of Bp. Strickland.
The fly in the ointment was that it turned out to be an ass-covering maneuver by Vigano, who had been the apostolic nuncio to the US for most of Benedict’s pontificate and who was the only person who could have done something about McCarrick–and never had, beyond wining and dining him and giving him honors. When the story about McCarrick broke and it became clear Vigano had done nothing, he blamed the only person who had done something: Pope Francis.
The coup fell apart and Vigano dramatically went into hiding rather than allow himself to be questioned. Since then, from his Fortress of Solitude, he issues crazy bulletins about beloved right wing conspiracy theories, the Great Reset, the glories of Trump, and the COVID conspiracy to approval of the Francis-hating sect.
And Strickland has been in the thick of all that MAGA culture war idiocy, promoting attacks on Francis that have gotten more and more nutty, as well as helping to kill a million Americans by promoting anti-vax crazy. Gluttons for punishing details can go to Where Peter Is and peruse their voluminous coverage of his increasingly unhinged antics. Suffice it to say that between calling the Holy Father a “serpent”, declaring him embarked on a program of undermining the Deposit of Faith and, most recently, empathetically reading, but never challenging, a letter which calls Francis “this one who has pushed aside the true Pope and has attempted to sit on a chair that is not his” intimates he is the Beast of Revelation, and declares him a “usurper”, even while maintaining the author of the letter has “a deep love…for Pope Francis”, he is vending poison and not a little disingenuousness.
His loathing of the Pope, however, appears not to be at the core of his removal (though my guess is that it didn’t help and his extremely public career as yet another MAGA Free Speech Martyr did nothing for him either). What does appear to be at the heart of things is that, instead of doing his job for the diocese of Tyler he was neglecting his flock in favor of the toxic hallucinogen of MAGA fame, one of the most spiritually deadly compounds on earth. So instead of competently running his diocese, he was swanning around the US on sundry culture war junkets or burning up the internet passing along the latest Reactionary junk declaring the Pope a “diabolically disordered clown” while his flock suffered his pastoral and administrative shoddiness, resulting in incompetent follies like this.
And it has resulted in groans of pain from his flock like this:
Statement of Fr Timothy Kelly, Pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church of the Diocese of Tyler, on the removal of Bishop Strickland:
“I think it’s important to say that many decent good people have been hurt under his administration.
Seven years ago, something dark descended upon the Diocese of Tyler.
Under the direction of Bishop Joseph Strickland, charity was replaced in this diocese.
Good, decent Catholic people, who had served at the diocese for a generation, were fired without as much as a thank you. Their hearts have never been recognized, nor has any apology ever been made.
Priests who disagreed with the bishop were intimidated by his supporters. I can personally attest to such phone calls from prominent friends of the bishop.
The bishop appointed people to positions of authority who are unworthy of those positions. (Thank God that most of them were later fired once the bishop felt that they were a threat to his authority.)
Every month, things in this diocese have gone steadily down and down.
Bishop Strickland’s well-being must be our primary concern today. He has been at war for the last few years. He has been manipulated and used by ruthless men, both laity and priests of this diocese, whose goal was to use the diocese and the bishop to push their extremist ideological agenda. I am not saying that Bishop Strickland is not responsible for his words, however, but some very unsavory men have influenced him.
It is essential that Bishop Strickland be given time to rest and come to terms with the disaster he had drawn upon himself and on us. It is important that he have some time for counseling and therapy. I wish him the best for his new life.
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. Families have stopped going to Mass because of his unkind words. Parents have taken their children out of Catholic schools. He needs time for reflection. He needs time to rebuild the bridges he burned.
Bishop Strickland needs to step away from the cameras and microphones, and submit himself to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff.
Something dark has descended upon the Diocese of Tyler. Saint Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The Bishop of Rome has spoken. That is the end of the matter.
‘Roma locuta est; Causa finita est.’
Augustine of Hippo”
So in June the Pope sent a couple of US bishops to Tyler to assess what was going on, on the ground in Tyler. That included a lot of interviews with locals. Their recommendation to the Pope:
As a result of the Visitation, the recommendation was made to the Holy Father that the continuation in office of Bishop Strickland was not feasible.
So it’s looking like the main issue with Bp. Strickland is his terrible management of his diocese.
For my part, I’m relieved he’s gone for the sake of his flock. But I also know he is not really gone. He has already made abundantly clear that he will, as is the custom with MAGA Christians, cosplay at martyrdom and posture as The Only Real Bishop in America as he soak up adulation and joins the speaking circuit for MAGA Catholics.
No idea how, or even if, Rome will respond beyond that.
For my part, as a layperson, I will continue to apply this
for understanding and confronting this pernicious, sociopathic, narcissistic sect at work in the Church and keep trying have mercy on–though not cringe before–even them.