By Joe Bukuras
Following a report that Pope Francis and Vatican officials held a meeting earlier this month to discuss requesting the resignation of Tyler, Texas, Bishop Joseph Strickland, the prelate said on Wednesday he has not been contacted by the Vatican about such matters.
In addition, Strickland said if Pope Francis were to remove him from office he would respect the Holy Father’s authority but would not resign if asked.
“Last week an article was published on a website called ‘The Pillar,’ and the article alleged that a meeting was held with Pope Francis where some of the members of the Congregation for Bishops recommended that I be encouraged to resign as bishop of Tyler,” Strickland said in a Sept. 20 letter to his diocese.
“Let me be clear that I have received no communication from Rome regarding this. At this point it is simply an article discussing supposed leaked information from the Vatican,” he added.
“I have said publicly that I cannot resign as bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI,” he said.
“I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as bishop of Tyler,” he added.
The reported meeting follows a Vatican-directed investigation into Strickland in June called an apostolic visitation, which, according to a source, addressed the firebrand bishop’s social media use but also questions related to diocesan management.
Strickland, 64, who has served as bishop of the Diocese of Tyler since 2012, has been outspoken on certain Catholic social issues such as abortion and gender ideology.
He has also been critical of Pope Francis, saying in a May Tweet that he rejects “his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith.”
Strickland’s statement on Wednesday marks his first public response following a Sept. 11 article by The Pillar, which, citing anonymous sources, reported that Pope Francis was to be presented with the findings of the apostolic visitation and would be encouraged to request the Tyler bishop’s resignation.
Strickland said he has not been contacted by any Church official since the apostolic visitation. He added that he wasn’t given a reason for why the visitation occurred and hasn’t received a report from the investigation.
Strickland said he is grateful for the support and prayers that many have expressed.
“I continue to love serving as your shepherd and thankfully during all of this I have been able to visit many of your parishes and celebrate our Catholic faith with you,” he said.
Strickland said he is “blessed” in his prayer life and feels “very close” to Christ, and supported by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.
“I am at peace with whatever the Lord’s call for me is; let us continue to pray for Pope Francis, the Church, and the Diocese of Tyler that we call home,” he said.
In a July podcast, Strickland said that the apostolic visitation was “not fun” and added that the Vatican’s delegates were “looking at everything.”
The bishop compared it to “being called to the principal’s office.”
“It’s not something that I would volunteer for, to go through an apostolic visitation,” he said. “It kind of puts a shadow over the diocese.”
“There have been some administrative issues, and I’m sure people are concerned,” he said. “I’m sure there are people saying that there must be something really bad, and something’s really gone wrong for this apostolic visitation [to happen].”
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said in an excerpt of the podcast posted to YouTube.
Crediting God and the Catholic faithful, Strickland said the diocese is in good financial condition.
He said he thinks he was subject to the visitation “because I’ve been bold enough and loved the Lord enough and his Church, simply preaching the truth.”