(LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland has said that he believes he was removed because he “threatened some of the powers that be with the truth of the gospel.”
In an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen on November 11, just hours after his removal, Strickland said that “if you want it [the truth of the gospel] to change, then I’m a problem.”
When Strickland was asked by Westen why he was removed from his position, he said: “The only answer I have to that is because forces in the Church right now don’t want the truth of the gospel.”
“They want it changed. They want it ignored. They want to be rid of the truth that is gloriously not going to go away. The truth that is Jesus Christ, His mystical body, which is the Church, all the wonders that the martyrs died for and the saints lived for through almost 2000 years since Christ died and rose.”
In a move that shook the Catholic world and drew global mainstream news coverage, Pope Francis removed Strickland from his position at the Diocese of Tyler in Texas on Friday, November 11. The Vatican has not provided an official explanation for Strickland’s removal.
Strickland said that he does not put the blame for his removal fully on Pope Francis because “there are many forces working at him and influencing him to make these kinds of decisions.”
“That’s why we pray for the pope, for him as a son of God and for his role as the supreme pontiff.”
“But we have to acknowledge there are tremendous and powerful forces at work in the world,” he stressed. “Saint Paul reminds us that we’re not fighting against human beings, flesh and blood; we’re fighting the powers and principalities of evil.”
“And evil doesn’t want the truth of Jesus Christ.”
“There are people in the Church, rather than glorying in the truth of Christ, they want to delete significant portions of Sacred Scripture and say, ‘Oh, we got that wrong,’ or ‘we’re just going to ignore it.’”
Strickland emphasized that “the saints, through 2000 years, didn’t get it wrong.”
The American bishop noted that the Diocese of Tyler is in great shape because it is “blessed with many seminarians, fine young men…that would be wonderful husbands or wonderful spiritual fathers, priests.”
According to Strickland, the diocese is also “financially strong” due to the “tremendous generosity” of the faithful.
“I really can’t look to any reason except [that] I threatened some of the powers that be with the truth of the gospel. That will not change. That cannot change. It’s perennial, it’s everlasting. It’s glorious. And if you want it to change, then I’m a problem.”
“The Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ is the face of truth,” Strickland said. “He doesn’t morph into a different being than He was when He died on the cross and rose for us. He is the same Lord; He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and those who want to change that, for a day, in terms of human history, we have to live through this day, but it’s a moment that will pass, and the truth will prevail.”
Trusting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
“It is a sad day for me, but I’m strong in the Lord,” Strickland told Westen on the day of his removal.
“These two images behind me, the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, those pillars of the Church in this time are, and have been… the pillars of strength for me—hopefully the pillars of strength for all of us,” he stated.
“I encourage myself and others to go more deeply than ever into prayer, to pray for Pope Francis, to pray for the church, to pray for a world.”
“I appreciate the prayers, and I need them, and [I ask you] to pray for the Diocese of Tyler, the many people whose lives are disrupted by this,” Strickland said.
The former bishop of Tyler repeatedly stressed that the faithful must remain in the Catholic Church in times of turmoil.
“I urge people not to feel like they can walk away from the Church. We are one body. We are the mystical body of Christ that is the Church.”
“And we need to be strong and joyful and hopeful in all of that, praying hard, praying harder than ever, and praying that anyone who is upset, angry, confused, whatever the negative emotions, that they move past that to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Truth and calm, and we rejoice to know Him, we rejoice to share Him.”
When asked by Westen if he already knows where he will live after his removal, Strickland said that he does not know what the future holds.
“I’m in the hands of the Lord, as we all are,” he stated. “None of us truly knows what tomorrow holds.”
“All of us have many questions in our lives,” Stickland observed. “But the answer is we are in the hands of God. We are the Lord’s. The Church is His. We trust that we’re strengthened by that. We’re guided through the darkness in his light.”
“Certainly, I remain a bishop and the successor of the apostles,” he said.
“I encourage people, as I heard recently Bishop Athanasius Schneider urging people, to pray more deeply than ever for Pope Francis, for the Vatican hierarchy. All of them, all of those who have the tremendous responsibility of guiding the Church in these days.”
Strickland addressed the confusion in the Catholic Church today and argued that it is at least partly because many in the Church hierarchy do not really know or believe the faith anymore.
“We know we’re living through a time of questions and confusions of faith, and many people walking away, many Catholics saying, ‘Oh, they don’t really believe these things anymore.’”
“And too many of those in high places in the Church, at least they’re acting as if they don’t really know the Lord. They don’t really know His mother. And because we know that, let us take on the charitable work of praying for the confused, praying for those who have turned their backs on the realities, the challenging realities of our faith.”
The bishop confirmed that he would yield his position to the administrator appointed by the Vatican and his eventual successor in the Diocese of Tyler.
“I said that I couldn’t resign, and I couldn’t of my will abandon the flock that I’d been given. But … Pope Francis has the authority to remove me as bishop, and he’s chosen to do so. I have to respect that.”