Strickland saga: Ousted bishop speculates on the reasons the Vatican removed him

Strickland didn’t get specific about what “standing with the Gospel” entails, but he was likely alluding to his outspokenness and provocative statements on social media platforms and public speaking events. 

For instance, Strickland tweeted on May 12 that he rejected what he called Pope Francis’ “program of undermining the Deposit of Faith” — a provocation, according to media reports, Vatican figures said “crossed the line,” prompting the apostolic visitation.

He has also repeatedly criticized the pope for a “dangerous” lack of clarity in his statements, especially related to sexuality, and has been a vocal critic of Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality. 

“Regrettably, it may be that some will label as schismatics those who disagree with the changes being proposed,” Strickland wrote in a public letter in August. “Instead, those who would propose changes to that which cannot be changed seek to commandeer Christ’s Church, and they are indeed the true schismatics.” 

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Did diocesan governance concerns factor in? 

But according to multiple media reports on both the June apostolic visitation and ensuing discussions within the Vatican’s Dicastery of Bishops, Church officials were also seriously concerned about major issues with Strickland’s governance of the Tyler diocese. These concerns reportedly centered on concerns over large-scale diocesan staff turnover, hiring a controversial former religious sister as a high school employee, and support of a controversial planned Catholic community. 

Strickland seemed to address these concerns obliquely in his LSN interview. 

“No place is perfect, no family is perfect,” he said. “But the diocese is in good shape.” 

The bishop cited the Diocese of Tyler’s high number of seminarians — 21 for a diocese with under 120,000 Catholics — and also noted that the diocese is in a position of financial strength due to “tremendous generosity from the people.” 

“I’m so proud of the priests and the diocese,” said Strickland, adding that given what he sees as the success of the diocese under his leadership, he couldn’t identify any other reason for his removal other than the threat he poses to those trying to change Church teaching.

Was Bishop Strickland told why he was removed? 

(Story continues below)

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Earlier that day, however, Strickland seemed to indicate that there may have been more concrete reasons given for the action taken against him. 

“I stand by all the things that were listed as complaints against me,” he told LSN in a brief article that was published before his 30-minute interview. “I know I didn’t implement Traditiones Custodes” — the pope’s 2021 restriction of the Traditional Latin Mass — “because I can’t starve out part of my flock.” 

Taken together, the bishop’s answers make it unclear not only why, exactly, Pope Francis ultimately decided to remove him, but also whether Strickland himself was informed of the rationale for the decision. 

What will he do now? 

Bishop Strickland acknowledged that he will need to “honestly unpack” what it means to no longer be the bishop of Tyler, and to “sort of regroup” in terms of what his role as a “successor of the Apostles without a local diocese to care for” will look like going forward. 

“I don’t have the answers right now,” Strickland said when asked what the future holds for him. “Lots of questions, lots of empty calendars that will be, I’m sure, filled in different ways.” 

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