In a radio appearance that aired yesterday, Bishop Joseph Strickland spoke about the context of his Friday tweet of an inflammatory video in which Pope Francis is described as a “diabolically disordered clown.”
Early in the program, which was recorded Friday, host Terry Barber asked Strickland about another of the bishop’s tweets, which contained a quote from the book of Deuteronomy with an admonition to keep the Lord’s commandments. Strickland explained that the tweet was a response to his observation of a negative momentum that is increasing in the world, especially following the Dobbs decision. He said, “We’ve turned from God—as a culture, as a world. Certainly it’s rampant in this nation, but it’s not just this nation. It’s infiltrating the Church. It’s, it’s just astounding, really how evil things are becoming.”
Deuteronomy 4:39-40a⁰⁰“Know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today.” Let us pray that all humanity may embrace this Truth!
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) June 22, 2022
The bishop noted that one noticeable sign of this growth in evil and hatred is the increase in foul language that he has observed. Strickland continued, “We can never give into the hate. We can never spew back the evil that is spewed at us.” He then asserted that not all of this hatred comes from outside the Church, saying, “Sadly people even within the Church are hating, because the truth of Christ is under attack from all sides. From up, down, backwards, and sideways, people are attacking the deposit of faith and the truth of Jesus Christ.”
Barber then asked him about another tweet, in which the bishop shared an image of sign reading, “IN THE FACE OF TYRANNY A SILENT PULPIT IS A COMPLICIT PULPIT.” Beneath these words are a reference to Ezekiel 33:6. Above the image, Strickland added the words, “Challenging words…let us all seek Truth, the best remedy for tyranny…”
Challenging words…let us all seek Truth, the best remedy for tyranny… pic.twitter.com/C54Evio8oi
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) June 23, 2022
Bishop Strickland went on to explain why he decided to post the video on Twitter, saying that “as a bishop, as a shepherd, I promised to guard the deposit of faith. And I have an obligation to do that. And the deposit of faith is under attack.”
Alluding to those who have criticized his approach, he continued, “People have been all over me and been warning me because I speak up too much. They ain’t seen nothing yet. Because the more the evil speaks up, the more we have to speak up.”
Barber then asked him about his Friday tweet of the video criticizing the pope. Bishop Strickland responded:
I tweeted it … after a lot of prayer—yeah, I mean, literally—prayer before the Lord and the Blessed Sacrament. And I said, this speaks truth, and it needs to be addressed. Yeah. The greatest way to love the Holy Father, Pope Francis, all the cardinals, all the bishops of the world is to call to the truth. I don’t claim to know much of anything, but I know Jesus Christ and I know his presence in the world. […]
The most loving, respectful, and obedient thing I can do for Pope Francis, for all the cardinals of the Roman Curia, for every bishop, every priest is to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. I don’t claim to have all the answers and I can only imagine the pressures that Pope Francis and all the popes of the 20th and 21st century have had to deal with, but to speak the truth as I know it and to call all of ourselves to the truth is the best way to love—is the best respect—that I can offer.
The confusions and the the mixed messages have to stop. They just have to stop. We have to have clarity. As you say so often, “clarity in charity.” Charity is the greatest truth. To do that clearly is the greatest way to share the truth in unambiguous ways. We can unambiguously say life is sacred from conception to natural death.
Anyone who denies that unambiguous truth flagrantly and pushes for murder of anyone needs to be corrected and not just welcomed and patted on the head. That’s gotta be corrected. Simple. Out of love for the Church out of love for Christ and out of love for every individual—whether it’s Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden. […]
Any lamb bringing the truth of Jesus Christ is surrounded by wolves. And many people have succumbed to the wolves. Too many people. You’ll see their messages. They say, “Oh, I was Catholic, but I left the Church because of this corruption or that corruption.”
Yeah. There’s corruption. But we have to remember the words of St. Peter, “Lord to whom shall we go?” And one of the points that’s made in this video that is very harsh in some ways. But I didn’t see anything that wasn’t true. If it’s not true, I’ll stand corrected, but the video talks about the plague of evil that is sweeping the world.
Later in the interview Strickland returned to the theme of infiltrating wolves, saying, “Too many are trying to pull the Church, the world, the nation, all of human society in the wrong direction. It’s been moving in that wrong direction for a very long time. But the evil forces, the wolves, are very cunning.” He explained, “They are manipulating things, economically, power wise, all sorts of things going on.”
Bishop Strickland, who became well-known during the Covid pandemic for promoting public health misinformation and opposing the Covid vaccine, pushed back against the charges that he is a conspiracy theorist, saying, “People say, oh, just another conspiracy theory. When you look back in the rearview mirror and see what has happened, a conspiracy theory doesn’t make things. Conspiracy theories are by definition just full of empty air, full of empty words. We can look back and see the destructive forces that have been unleashed in our world. And we better wake up.”
In another segment, Bishop Strickland spoke about the potential consequences of continuing to speak out as he has. “We’ve got to speak that truth. And so we have to be willing to be thrown in jail or rejected by the world—to lose our job, to lose our status.”
Later on in the episode, Barber recommended a television program to the listeners, saying, “Raymond Arroyo has a show, The World Over on EWTN, and it was outstanding last night. It’s on YouTube. Fr. Gerry Murray was there, and he was interviewed about the situation in the Church. I just think everyone should hear it and watch it because it’s so informative. It should give us all the motivation to actually work harder in the Church.”
In the “papal posse” segment that Barber describes, much like last week’s Remnant video, the discussion—especially Murray’s contribution—is essentially a litany of criticisms and accusations against Pope Francis.
For example, when asked about Pope Francis’s response to a reporter’s question on denying Holy Communion to pro-choice politicians, Fr. Murray replied, “That response is disturbing and upsetting because it gives the impression that to be a pastoral bishop, we should not deny communion to people like Nancy Pelosi or President Biden.”
On the pope’s plans to appoint women to the Congregation for Bishops (the body that helps the pope select bishops around the world), Fr. Murray responded, “I think he’s saying it because he’s buying into the critique that somehow the Church is unjust to women because we don’t let them run the Church in some fashion, so he’s giving them roles that, uh, you know, formerly belong to bishops. … This is a big problem. I’m not happy about this development.” On the Vatican-China deal, Fr. Murray said it has caused “unbelievable trauma for the Chinese Catholics who are faithful to the Holy See.”
Barber and Strickland then went on to discuss a section of the Catechism on social justice, tying it into some of the topics referenced earlier. Strickland spoke about how he believed the wider society has been trying to box in the Church and suppress truth. He said, “The whole Covid experiment really pushed a lot of that and accomplished it to some degree. Thankfully, our churches, at least here in Tyler, are more full than ever. I think it’s because people are hungry for truth, and they got hungrier as Covid unfolded. Thankfully people are recognizing.”
Throughout the interview, Bishop Strickland’s resolve was evident. He clearly has no intention to stop speaking the truth as he sees it. Still, even though he agrees with Pope Francis on many fundamental moral principles, there is no question about their difference in approach. There is also the issue of the bishop’s clear endorsement of messages that explicitly attack the integrity, fidelity, and authority of the pope. This is impossible to deny following Bishop Strickland’s statement about the Remnant video, when he said, “I didn’t see anything that wasn’t true.”
A fix for this disharmony between bishop and pope in the near future does not appear likely. So the only question is when, and if, Francis will relieve him of his duties. Because there’s little doubt that Bishop Strickland will continue on, as reflected in his blessing at the conclusion of the program: “No matter the resistance, no matter who says no. We must say yes, Viva Cristo Rey. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
 Ezekiel 33:6, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them; that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” (The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.