REPORT: Vatican launches investigation into Diocese of Tyler’s Bishop Strickland

Bishop of Tyler Joseph Strickland
Bishop of Tyler Joseph Strickland(Courtesy)
Published: Jun. 26, 2023 at 3:58 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - According to reports from various Catholic news outlets, the Vatican has launched an investigation into Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler.

According to The Pillar, the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops has undertaken an apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.

The Pillar says, an apostolic visitation is “an official review of diocesan leadership and governance, usually convened at the behest of a Vatican congregation.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the investigation into the Diocese of Tyler was originally reported on the Catholic outlet Church Militant.

The National Catholic Reporter says they reached out to the diocese and on June 26 Elizabeth Slaten, the communications director for the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, told them that the investigation occurred over “a series of days” the previous week, but she declined to comment further on who conducted the visitation or its purpose.

According to NCR Slaten said, “The whole process was very confidential, the whole thing was conducted by the Holy See. We respect their processes. I’m not free to speak on behalf of Mother Church and the nuncio.”

Strickland has a sizeable social media presence, NCR reports Strickland as having “nearly 124,000 followers on Twitter, slightly more than the total number of Catholics in his diocese.” It’s this platform, and the messages Strickland spreads with it, that have some speculating on the investigation’s true purpose.

According to The Pillar, Strickland has made waves with his opinions on vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic, and tweeting about his negative opinions of Pope Francis.

NCR reports that in a May tweet, Strickland wrote, “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.”

Additionally The Pillar reports that on June 16 Strickland led a prayer rally at L.A. Dodger Stadium in protest of the Dodger’s recognition of an LGBTQ+ group.

According to The Pillar, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the leadership of the U.S. bishops’ conference had distanced themselves from the rally.

In regards to how the Diocese of Tyler reacted to the investigation, The Pillar reports that they spoke with sources close to Strickland about the investigation.

The Pillar says their source is a priest who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The Pillar reports their source said “It was not even primarily about his ‘rants’ about Pope Francis. The questions really focused on years of governance issues, which have had us priests concerned. We had two finance officers removed before their five-year-terms were expired, and that’s not typical at all.”

The Pillar reports another source close to Strickland tells them that the Bishop is confident about the visit. “The bishop doesn’t want to make too big of a deal of it,” The Pillar’s source said.

But The Pillar also says they interviewed a priest who was questioned during the visitation and the priest said that interviewers “were already asking questions about who might be a good fit to replace [Strickland].”

On June 25, around 6:45 a.m. Bishop Strickland tweeted the following, “To be persecuted for speaking truth is an honor every Christian should be willing to embrace. It is walking with Jesus Christ who is Truth Incarnate. If we know Jesus it is easier to speak His Truth no matter what forces oppose us. The opposition is temporary, Jesus is forever.”

There is currently no word on when an official report with Dicastery for Bishops will be filed or when the dicastery will reach a decision about the visitation.

KLTV has reached out to the Diocese of Tyler for comment. Director of Communication Elizabeth Slaten says Bishop Strickland is “not available.”