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Tyler bishop says he will not resign from Texas diocese

Apostolic visitation conducted in June by two bishops to discuss Strickland's future

Published: October 4, 2023   
OSV News photo/Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, during a Jan. 20, 2020, meeting with U.S. bishops from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland said he will not resign as bishop of Tyler, Texas, but if Pope Francis removes him from the diocese, he will respect the pope's authority.

In a Sept. 20 blog post on his website,, the bishop said resigning "would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI." However, he added, "I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as Bishop of Tyler. I love Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church which he established. My only desire is to speak his truth and live God's will to the best of my ability."

Bishop Strickland noted the apostolic visitation of the Diocese of Tyler June 19-24 conducted by retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., and Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan of Camden, N.J.

The bishops "spent the week interviewing various people about the condition of the diocese and concluded by interviewing me," Bishop Strickland wrote Sept. 20. "I have not heard from any Church official from Rome since the visitation concluded on June 24. I was not given a reason for the visitation, and I have not received any report since."

In his Sept. 20 blog post, Bishop Strickland pointed to a story published Sept. 11 by The Pillar, an online Catholic news outlet, that reported it had learned Pope Francis met Sept. 9 with Archbishop Robert F. Prevost, who heads the Vatican's Dicastery for Bishops, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Sources told The Pillar the pair, both cardinals-designate, had planned to present the results of the apostolic visitation and were expected to recommend Pope Francis request Bishop Strickland's resignation.

"Let me be clear that I have received no communication from Rome regarding this," Bishop Strickland wrote, saying all there is right now is just an "article discussing supposed leaked information from the Vatican."

Some have speculated that the apostolic visitation is tied to Bishop Strickland's criticism of Pope Francis and other Church prelates, especially on X (formerly Twitter), where he has around 146,000 followers.

On May 12, he tweeted, "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." The tweet was part of an exchange about a media personality's views that Pope Francis is not authentically the pope, a position Bishop Strickland said he rejected.

Since the visitation, he also has criticized the upcoming Synod on Synodality, which he said will lead to confusion and division in the Church.

Bishop Strickland said on his weekly radio show he thinks the apostolic visitation was initiated "because I've been bold enough, I love the Lord enough and his Church to simply keep preaching the truth."

"I kind of compare it to being called to the principal's office, this apostolic visitation," he said during the July 23 episode of "The Bishop Strickland Hour."

He acknowledged that "there have been some administrative issues, and I'm sure people are concerned.”

"I've got nothing to hide. Finances are in order ... development is strong, we have a good number of seminarians," he said, adding he was "humbled and uplifted by the goodness of the people."

Bishop Strickland, 64, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Dallas in 1985. In 1987 he joined the presbyterate of the newly established Diocese of Tyler and in 2012 was named its fourth bishop.

He drew widespread attention during the COVID-19 pandemic for his outspoken criticism of the Vatican's moral defense of the available vaccines. In 2020, the Vatican pointed to a 2005 study by the Pontifical Academy for Life and a 2008 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith instruction called "Dignitatis Personae" to illustrate the moral guidelines around COVID-19 vaccines whose cell lines had a lineage in tissue alleged to have been obtained from two abortions in the mid-20th century.

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