TYLER — East Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland is facing investigation by Pope Francis after criticizing the church’s leadership and speaking out politically.
Appointed in 2012, Strickland has expressed concerns about certain aspects of Pope Francis’ leadership and has called for Catholic Christians to embrace Jesus Christ rather than over-adhere to the Pope’s directives.
Please allow me to clarify regarding, “Patrick Coffin has challenged the authenticity of the Pope Francis.” If this is accurate I disagree, 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.
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) May 13, 2023
In May, Pope Francis initiated an apostolic visitation—a critical visit from a papal representative—because Strickland had endorsed several controversial videos and repeatedly called out the Pope for poor leadership. The visitation lasted for nearly a week, as it included several interviews with clergy members and laity.
Bishop Strickland took to Twitter to voice his position, stating, “It is time for me to say that I reject his program of undermining the Deposit of Faith. Follow Jesus.”
Moreover, Strickland previously endorsed Texas Priest Frank Pavone, who was subsequently defrocked in December of 2022 for his staunch anti-abortion stance and commitment to conservative values.
In addition to his criticisms of Pope Francis on Twitter, Strickland has taken political initiative by describing President Joe Biden as an “evil president.” He has also endorsed videos strongly discouraging Catholics from voting Democrat in political elections.
The self-described “red-pilled” bishop has amassed more than 124,000 followers on Twitter. Yet, despite his large following, Strickland has not commented on the visitation.
According to Elizabeth Slaten, the communications director for the Diocese of Tyler, the process was handled with the utmost confidentiality, thus preventing her from speaking on the matter.
“The whole process was very confidential,” Slaten told National Catholic Reporter. “[She was] not free to speak on behalf of Mother Church and the nuncio.”
The investigation into Bishop Strickland’s actions and statements underscores the looming tensions within the Catholic Church, as many are calling on the Internal Revenue Service to strip the Diocese of Tyler of its tax exempt status.