There’s an ugly rumor — based on hearsay — that the US papal nuncio, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, once told Bishop Joseph Strickland that there is “no deposit of faith.” On Thursday’s episode of The World Over on EWTN, Bishop Strickland was asked about this rumored exchange. He said in his reply, “that’s the way that I heard it … I can’t quote directly that he said it doesn’t exist. … he didn’t use those words, but that’s what I heard.”
In other words, the bishop himself has backed away from the rumor, essentially admitting that these were not Cardinal Pierre’s words and that the quote should not be attributed to him.
It seems that the origin of the quote is a May 2023 episode of “Full Sheen Ahead,” a radio show hosted by Terry Barber and Jesse Romero. Barber, who also co-hosts the “Bishop Strickland Hour,” recounted a story about an incident when Pierre allegedly “wagged his finger” at Strickland during a USCCB meeting in 2021 and telling the bishop to “Stop talking about the deposit of faith. There is no deposit of faith!”
Now, speaking as someone who has listened to more episodes of “The Bishop Strickland Hour” than any person should, I can tell you that the phrase “the deposit of faith” gets bandied around nearly as often on that show as I say “um” and “y’know” on my own podcast. Clearly Barber was reconstructing Strickland’s account of the conversation. Barber was not present at the time, and the alleged conversation had taken place over a year before.
Furthermore, if there’s any question about whether Cardinal Pierre believes in the deposit of faith, here are two examples in which he has spoken about it.
The first example is in his homily on September 8, 2017, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The occasion was the imposition of the pallium upon Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, when he was installed as the fourth Archbishop Of Anchorage, Alaska, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family (emphasis added):
“The bishop guards; here he must act with justice. He guards the ‘Holy Church, the spouse of Christ’ and the Body of Christ, of which each baptized person is a member. He procures their true good, giving special attention and care to those members who are weakest in the faith, and even the sheep that are still outside the fold. He guards the deposit of faith, helping the flock walk safely in the path of truth.”
The second example happens to have already been published on our website. It is from Pierre’s “Bergoglio Lecture” at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut on February 8, 2023, with the title, “Pope Francis: Origins and Destination, Leading the Synodal Journey.” In his address, the nuncio said (emphasis added):
Since her beginnings the Church has had structures to help accomplish her missions. These have been in continuing evolution. The deposit of faith is unchanging. The depth of its richness continues to be probed and unfolded in countless way, constituting the basis for the sound development of Doctrine. But the process of reform intersects the life of the Church principally at a different level. It operates on the structures of government, ecclesial realities, liturgical expressions, legal systems, and so on. In this realm, evolution, plasticity and dynamism must be the hallmarks. We should resist any tendency towards crystallization. A solution that crystallizes, no matter how beautiful and pleasant to behold, remains lifeless. Human life, on the contrary, is always teeming, chaotic, in flux. The missionary impulse of the Church is the driving force behind the need for change. The purpose of a tool determines its design. Hence, a missionary Church requires structures suitable for the task, capable of interacting with an ever-changing world. This is the Pope’s vision.
I hope that those who have fueled this false and groundless rumor will publish retractions and apologize to the nuncio.