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(LifeSiteNews) — The former Prefect of the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, has issued a strong statement of support for Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, advising him to “not resign.”
In a statement published on kath.net September 21, Müller offered his support to Strickland. “It is terrible what is being done to Bishop Strickland, an abuse of office against the divine right of the episcopate,” stated Müller.
“If I could advise Bishop Strickland, he should definitely not resign, because then they [Vatican authorities] can wash their hands of it,” added the German cardinal.
Strickland has emerged as one of the most straight-talking and vocal defenders of Catholic teaching in the United States, a point which has often placed his teaching in seeming juxtaposition to the statements made by Pope Francis.
The bishop has been the subject of much scrutiny among the Catholic media ever since it was revealed that he was subject to an apostolic visitation in June 2023. His visitation was conducted by two retired bishops: Bishop Dennis Sullivan of Camden, New Jersey, and former Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona.
In recent weeks, The Pillar issued a report stating that the Vatican was set to ask Strickland for his resignation. However, Strickland responded September 20 saying that he was given no reason for the visitation, nor had he heard any results from the visit.
In new update, @Bishopoftyler says that he was not given any reason for his apostolic visitation & has heard nothing from #Vatican about his rumored resignation.
He notes he cannot abandon his flock, but will obey if #PopeFrancis removes him as diocesan bishop –
I love Jesus… pic.twitter.com/4XNV03JAes
— Michael Haynes 🇻🇦 (@MLJHaynes) September 20, 2023
Strickland added that he had no intention of resigning:
I have said publicly that I cannot resign as Bishop of Tyler because that would be me abandoning the flock that I was given charge of by Pope Benedict XVI. I have also said that I will respect the authority of Pope Francis if he removes me from office as Bishop of Tyler. I love Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church which He established. My only desire is to speak His Truth and live God’s Will to the best of my ability.
Speaking to kath.net, Müller defended the American bishop, outlining that the pope could only justly remove a bishop from his see “if he has been guilty of something bad (heresy, schism, apostasy, a crime, or totally un-priestly behavior), e.g., the pseudo-blessing of people of both sexes or of one sex in extramarital relations that offends God and defrauds people of their salvation.”
On the contrary, should a pope make an “arbitrary removal” of a bishop, such an action “undermines the authority of the pope,” said Müller.
Arbitrary removal as bishop of a diocese where a bishop is appointed by Christ Himself as its own shepherd undermines the authority of the pope, as happened historically with the unworthy abuse of office under the Avignonese papacy. (This loss of trust was one of the main reasons for Reformation Christianity’s secession from the Catholic Church and its hatred of the pope, who, with his arbitrary actions, put himself in the place of God).
Speaking to LifeSiteNews in July, Müller re-iterated the duty of the Pope and Church officials to be faithful to the Tradition of the Church, and not to “demand obedience for their private opinions, and certainly not for teachings and actions that would contradict revelation and the natural moral law.”
This teaching he repeated to kath.net, noting how “the Pope is not at all the Lord of the Church, but only as the Vicar of Christ for the universal Church, the first servant of his Lord, who had to say to Simon Peter, who was just destined to be the Rock of the Church, ‘Get behind me (Ital. Indietro, the true Indietrismo), because you do not have in mind what God wants, but what men want.’ (Mt 16:23).”
Müller, who has emerged as a strong critic of the Pope’s Synod on Synodality calling it a “hostile takeover” of the Church that threatens to “end” Catholicism – further stated that Pope Francis did not have the “authority from Christ to harass and intimidate good bishops.”
He accused the detractors of faithful bishops as being “false friends” who “denounce” such prelates to the Pope, whilst the “heretical and immoral bishops can do what they want”:
The Pope has no authority from Christ to harass and intimidate good bishops in the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who, in accordance with the episcopal ideal of Vatican II, sanctify, teach and guide the flock of God in the name of Christ, just because false friends denounce these good bishops to Francis as enemies of the Pope, while heretical and immoral bishops can do what they want, or who every day harass the Church of Christ with another foolishness.
Müller is not alone in offering his support to Strickland. Kazakhstan’s Bishop Athanasius Schneider wrote privately to the Texas bishop thanking Strickland for his “intrepid dedication to uncompromisingly keep, transmit, and defend the Catholic faith.”
He accused the Vatican of putting Strickland under “scrutiny” and using threatening “intimidations and deprivation of the episcopal care of your flock in Tyler, basically only for the one reason, that you, like St. Basil, St. Athanasius, and many other confessor-bishops in history, are keeping the traditions of the Fathers.”
Schneider encouraged Strickland, noting that he would be thanked by future popes due to his “intrepid fidelity to the Catholic Faith and to its holy traditions, by which you contributed to the honor of the Apostolic See, which was partly darkened and stained by our unfavourable time.
While rumors of a possible request for resignation or even a forced removal have been swirling, Strickland has published a series of pastoral letters, outlining truths of the Catholic faith on the sacraments, the nature of the Church, and fundamental questions regarding the faith. His letters have particularly focussed on questions which will emerge at the Synod on Synodality.
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