(LifeSiteNews) — Today’s episode of The John-Henry Westen Show is an exclusive interview with Bishop Joseph Strickland. Below is a full transcript of our conversation. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
John-Henry Westen: Bishop Strickland, so good to be with you. God bless you.
Bishop Joseph Strickland: I agree. Thank you.
JHW: If you can begin, as we always do, with the sign of the cross.
Bishop Strickland: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
JHW: Amen. So you’ve been receiving a lot of messages of praise and thanks for your stance, your fidelity, for the joy and the confirmation that people aren’t crazy that you’re giving a lot of people. Tell us about that.
Bishop Strickland: Yeah, it really is overwhelming. I’m humbled by the number of people really from all over that are just thanking me, thanking me for the way I’ve dealt with this, which is humbling. I really feel I have to credit the grace of God, the Holy Spirit. Nobody told me how to respond. And I’m sure there are different ways to respond.
But really, John-Henry, I base the peace that I feel, the joy that’s still in my life, is because I’m sharing the truth of Jesus Christ that strengthens me. But I’m human, and it’s very nice to have so many people – I mean, just today, a couple of high school students thanking me for speaking up and for doing so with a gentle heart, not harshness. But the clarity I hear gratitude for and just being willing to speak the truth, even when there are certainly forces saying don’t speak the truth, stay quiet. So it is gratifying, and I just feel blessed to have that clarity.
I’m really not against anyone, but I’m for Jesus Christ. And as He tells us, that creates some division. We divide from anything that is evil, anything that is not of God, the closer we grow to Christ. And I’m still on the journey, as we all are. I have a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ, and just in prayer this morning, I like to pray the Rosary and ask, “Lord, bring me closer to your Sacred Heart” as I reflect on the Luminous Mysteries today, as he’s being baptized by John the Baptist. So I think to keep the joy and to keep the clarity of the truth, for me it gives me strength, and I’m glad to have so many contacting me, thanking me and offering their support, offering help in all kinds of ways.
JHW: Beautiful. The Vatican continues to be a source of news, of controversy, of all things going on. One of the things that happened recently, it actually follows on something that came out of Rome. It was a sort of permanent or making formal the right of the position of acolyte and lector for women. It was something that was permitted in circumstances where there wasn’t a man readily available to read or whatever. But there was a formalization of that some time ago. Pope Francis has just recently also instituted women lectors from different parts of the world. Why is that controversial? What is that? And what is the Church’s actual stance on these things and where does it come from?
Bishop Strickland: My take on it is that it’s sort of a very slow but very clear movement, the controversy of women’s ordination and everything. We’ve heard things, “Oh, well, that’s not even on the table for discussion.” I think we would both agree we’re in a time of great confusion. I would even say recently, “weaponized confusion.” People speak of virtually anything can be weaponized. But confusion is really not what we need. Very harmful. It allows people that totally disagree with our faith, do not believe in Jesus Christ, and really mock us, it allows them to kind of have a pathway into seeing that even they are not clear on what they believe – “these Christians” or “these Catholics.”
So I think it really does create confusion. God has created us male and female and given distinct roles of what it means to be male, what it means to be female. There’s been controversy for my lifetime about a male-only priesthood. But that is our belief. Christ chose 12 men, one of them was a betrayer, but they were all men. Failed at times, weak. But they were men. Through the Hebrew Scriptures, there’s something about a patriarchal community. And many people reject that: “Oh, it’s just terrible. It’s horrible.” But God the Father, we believe, has set a pattern there, out of His love.
Really, John-Henry, I believe an awful lot of our issues in the world, across the board, come down to not knowing and not believing God really loves us. If we really believe that, male or female, then we can begin to trust in these traditions and these patterns of how is God operating. If we believe Sacred Scripture – which of course we do as Catholics, and thankfully many people do – then God has operated in a patriarchal manner. I mean, the fact that we call God “Father” is not some denigration of women. It really is the opposite. It’s giving the clear roles of humanity. Of course, God is Father. He’s not a human father. He’s divine. But that patriarchal approach shows us something of who God is and the complementarity of women in human society. It really is a beautiful gift that God has revealed to us – these distinctions, these differences, not a lack of equality. God’s sons and God’s daughters are beloved. And we can see that in Sacred Scripture. Of course, we see the most exalted human being is a woman: Mary of Nazareth, the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of Jesus. And people would say, “Well, what about Jesus?” Of course, He is fully man, but He is also fully God. So He is not the only human. Mary is only human. So she is a member of our race. And there’s poetry, there’s beautiful reflections and theological texts that speak of that reality of Mary.
So to say that somehow women are “less than” for the Catholic Church, it just doesn’t really understand our theology and our piety, our way of living as devout Catholics. Certainly through the centuries sometimes women have been put down in one way or another. But to abandon a patriarchal model because of those issues, it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t really work, because no matter how much modern society wants to say, “There’s no difference,” there is. Children will tell you that there’s a difference between dad and mom. Those can be and should be and are meant by God to be complementary. And all of that is what the Church’s Holy Orders and the whole Church’s structure is based on.
We both know holy religious women, committed and consecrated religious. In many ways, I believe their quiet prayers, you might say in the background, but really not in the background as far as people of the Kingdom, they’re really at the forefront, being women of prayer. And I know in the diocese where I served, we were blessed with a cloistered monastery of women, and I always reminded myself, “Who knows how much calamity, how much more calamity there would be in the world if there weren’t these women in monasteries around the world?” They’re diminished, but they’re still there praying, and we have to believe in that power.
So there are multiple facets to what I see as a concern. For one thing, if there is absolutely no intention of having, of promoting and pushing a female priesthood, then you’re definitely, again, going back to confusion. You’re giving women a false impression: “Well, we can make it to lector, or we can get to acolyte, maybe deacons next, and then keep moving down that path.” If there’s absolutely no intention of that, then it’s confusing to say, “Well, we’ll give you this.” And to me, it’s denigrating to the beautiful value of women in the Church.
So it’s troubling to see the confusion. It’s troubling to see moving away or even incremental steps moving away from being very clear that little boys should be encouraged and supported to contemplate the possibility of are they called to Holy Orders – deacon, priest. Little girls need to be reminded to think of the beautiful path of religious life that they may be called to. And even that I think gets interfered with, with the confusion in the mixing of roles and not being clear what the role of men is in the Church and in society, what the role of women is in the Church and in society.
JHW: Beautiful. There is one more big confusion from Rome. In fact, it was discovered by Diane Montagna, a Vatican reporter who’s just perfect in Italian. When she looked at the texts, she discovered, lo and behold, in the official text, paragraph 38 of Fiducia Supplicans – in the beginning it does talk very specifically about the possibility of blessing for irregular couples and same-sex “couples,” so we’re talking about “couples” already; that created much consternation, particularly in Africa – but she discovered something even beyond that, because in America particularly, there were people arguing about, “No, it’s for individuals!” “But it says couples!” “Yes, but the text says ‘individuals.'”
And then came something of a bombshell when she reports that, “Wait a minute. Actually in the Italian original, it doesn’t say ‘for individuals,’ it talks about ‘for them.'” In the German “für sie,” which is totally plural. And in Spanish, “para ellos,” and in other languages, there’s about five languages – even in Polish, it also is the plural only. So somehow there’s some fooling around going on. I don’t know if it’s some kind of leaning toward perhaps a more orthodox interpretation because, well, that’s where all the pushback comes from, usually, in English-speaking countries – and now it’s English-speaking Africa, and America as well. What’s your take on that? The idea was stunning to me.
Bishop Strickland: Well, once again, confusion. And one thing that I would point out that is, I think, problematic, certainly could be dealt with: For many, many years, I would presume centuries, I don’t claim to know that for sure, but I know when I studied canon law, what we learned is the official texts were always published in Latin. And I can see now why that’s so important because, as you know, translations can, as you’re pointing out, make a total difference in the meaning and can be critical to what we’re talking about. And so the wisdom of the Church using Latin as the standard, as the home base language to be used always, it really helps to avoid the confusion.
And like the Code of Canon Law, you have a Latin text. You can have different ideas about certain translations of Latin, but some, like you’re pointing out, it’s totally clear. In Spanish – I know some Spanish – “ellos” means “them.” It doesn’t mean anything else. If you’re using that word, you’re speaking of a plural “them.” And so that’s one level of problem that I see with issuing a text in Italian. Why not issue it in Latin and then be very clear about the translations of those Latin words into the different languages?
I applaud you and Diane and other journalists who are watching things. That’s what you need to do is to point out was it a mistake? It needs to be corrected. Was it intentional? What sort of intent was there? And to me, without even trying to figure out why this was done, if it was done intentionally, if it was not an editing error, which I presume it wasn’t, or that would have been been made very clear already. “Oh, we edited it wrong. Here’s the proper correction.” And that can happen. We’ve both edited texts, and you can make a mistake there.
But it’s very troublesome. And to me, probably the heart of what troubles me about it is that, again, it gives fodder to people who love to attack the Church. It gives people information that says, “There’s deceit here.” You hate to make that judgment. But having a brain, you can say, “Well, that is one path you can go down,” and that’s a very difficult and problematic path to say there’s an intentional deceit happening, with one in translation in English and another in another language. What’s going on there? We have such a problem in the world today, not just in the Church, but across the board, with authority, and trusting authority, and these kind of things don’t help, when people that are ready to just tear the Church down can say, “See, they’re being deceptive in the way they’re doing this.” You would hate to even think that. But it opens the door for that kind of speculation. And I think we need to pay attention to that, because in this modern world, with all the communication, with all the people that would love to – we’ve both heard statements from people that want to have a globally different world, who would love to see the Catholic Church totally eliminated from the human landscape. We know that won’t happen, because it was established by Jesus Christ, God’s divine Son. But the fact that people would love to see that happen, and these kind of things undermine the presence of the Church in the world that needs to be a beacon of light and hope.
So I hope we can learn from some of these things and be very clear about everything that’s issued. And if it is what I would call a sinister intention of being deceptive, that needs to be addressed as well. What in the world is going on? If leaders in the Church are intentionally saying, “Well, in this language, they’ll get this version. In this language, they’ll get a different version.” Talk about politics, I mean, that’s what you can presume, is they’re trying to tamp down one or the other somehow, saying, “Will it be more accepted?” It’s just deceit in its ugliest form.
JHW: It would be something if it was just an error, except the Vatican under Pope Francis is already known for this kind of deception. There was a book out by Pope Francis, and they tried to get Pope Benedict while he was still alive to endorse it, and he sent a letter thanking them for it, but he had some issues with it. And they even showed a photo of Benedict’s letter with some of the parts that were somewhat critical fuzzed out. You couldn’t see them. And that was intentional, and they were caught for it. So it’s a real embarrassment. And I think the monsignor was actually let go for that, put into another higher position probably, but nonetheless officially let go so they could make sure they did something.
But it was an intentional deception – that was proved – in order to bolster Francis at the expense of Pope Benedict and being honest with the former Holy Father. I mean, it’s totally crazy, but yet that is our Vatican today. So for all those who would like to say, “Oh, it’s probably nothing,” well actually there’s some indication that they’ve gone down that road before.
We are in strange times, but one of the helps to the Church, I think a great help to the Church, is penance – penance of the people. We are coming up quite soon actually to Lent. Lent starts this year on St. Valentine’s Day – that’s an interesting thing all by itself. But tell us about Lent, and what are your thoughts for this Lent for yourself this year?
Bishop Strickland: Well, I believe Lent is a great blessing in the life of the Church. Thankfully still more or less the way I grew up with it. It is a time of what the Church likes to call a “retreat of the Church” – a time to be renewed, to refocus. There’s the tradition of some fasting and abstinence, and the idea of giving something up during the Lenten season, of fasting from various things that are enjoyable, and even maybe some extra prayer, some time to go to church – if you typically don’t go on a Friday, maybe go Fridays for Stations of the Cross.
So, beautifully, Lent is a time leading up to Easter, our greatest feast, the Resurrection of the Lord, the very heart of where our faith begins: Jesus Christ born into this world, He suffers for us, He dies for us, He rises from the dead – that is the kerygma, that is the beginning, that’s the seed of what the Church is. The apostles and those gathered around them, they originally called it “the Way,” and they followed that Way that led, with Christ, to everlasting life.
So Lent is pretty much preparing for what it’s all about, what the Church is. Every Sunday is a little Easter, and Lent is a time to remember how significant Easter is. We follow a resurrected Lord who is with us now in the Eucharist as risen Lord, body and blood, soul and divinity. It is His risen body, blood, soul, and divinity that is with us, continuing to strengthen us and guide us in this journey through life to everlasting life, to the salvation of our soul.
So Lent is very important. And you mentioned Ash Wednesday being on Valentine’s Day. I already spoke to someone about that, and I would encourage pastors, and parents who are guiding their children, and certainly individually to really look at that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday – it’s interesting just how the calendar falls, I remember it happening before – but I encourage those people who are really people of faith to take it as an opportunity for some good discussions, to look at what do you do with an Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day? I think there are different ways to approach it. But I think a good way for parents would be to talk to their kids about, “It’s Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Ash Wednesday.” And so maybe encouraging your children and being encouraged yourself to say, “I’m going to be even a little more penitential on this Ash Wednesday.” Just to sort of emphasize, because it’s almost like a bonus penance you could do to say, “I’m not only entering into the fasting and abstinence of Ash Wednesday, but I’m going to do a little extra to just really highlight what I’m giving up for this Valentine’s Day.”
And another take that I would encourage – as I said, I think there are multiple ways to look at it. Some people might say, “Well, let’s ask Father if we can get a dispensation from Ash Wednesday.” For one thing, we know it’s not a holy day of obligation. But in my experience as a priest, it’s the most attended day, which is beautiful. I think it really is a time when people, even if they’ve kind of wandered from the Church, many times people will return to a more active living out of their Catholic faith. But I think Ash Wednesday really captures the Catholic imagination and beyond. In a non-Catholic area where I was bishop (we were only less than 10 percent Catholic), many non-Catholics would come to Ash Wednesday, and they received the ashes, because it’s a sacramental. It’s not like the Eucharist, so anyone can receive the ashes and be reminded either, “Dust you were, and unto dust you shall return,” or, “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” Both ways can be used at Ash Wednesday, and both are great reminders of the very heart of our faith.
Another way that I would encourage parents to consider is to maybe really talk about, “Why is it St. Valentine’s Day? What is the heart imagery of that day really about?” And then bring in, of course a great love, devotion that I have is the Sacred Heart of Christ, and to really maybe use this as an opportunity to remind kids and adults that it’s St. Valentine’s Day in its origin. And where did that come from? Who was St. Valentine? What’s that about? And the reason that hearts are there? It’s kind of become the day for spouses to exchange gifts or whatever. But to look at Valentine’s Day and what it says to the love, that Christ is Love Incarnate, and what it says to us as we begin this journey to His passion in Holy Week and then His resurrection.
So I would encourage people to really be creative and use the opportunity that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday happened to be the same day this year, beginning Lent, to really not just say, “Well, Father, can we have a dispensation from Ash Wednesday?” or just kind of pretend we’ll just ignore Valentine’s Day and just have Ash Wednesday, but to really kind of play around with, “What does that say to us? What can we learn from it that is beautiful for our faith as we enter into a Lenten journey once again?”
JHW: Absolutely beautiful. Bishop Strickland, may I ask you to bless our viewers? Because I’m sure they would love to have your blessing.
Bishop Strickland: Sure. Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing for all of those who will view this conversation, that it may be an opportunity for us to rejoice in our life in Jesus Christ, rejoice in the blessings, face the challenges, always praying for all of the Church, the hierarchy, the laity, every member of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and praying that we can continue to seek the life that Christ brings, continues to bring, on them and in each of our lives and into our world, with the intercession of the saints, and especially the Queen of Saints, the Immaculate Virgin Mary. And we ask this blessing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
JHW: Amen. Thank you, Bishop Strickland. God bless you. And God bless all of you. We’ll see you next time.
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