Pledge your prayers for Bp. Strickland HERE
TYLER, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — The following text comes from an email sent to His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio of the United States of America, on behalf of faithful Catholics in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.
His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio of the United States of America Apostolic Nunciature
3339 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, DC 20008-3610
Via Email: [email protected]
RE: Apostolic Visitation of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas Your Excellency, Archbishop Pierre:
This letter is offered in fidelity to Christ and His Church on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. We respectfully address this matter consistent with our rights and in obedience to our obligations under the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, particularly Canons 208-223, which state that “The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires,” and have the “right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful” (Can. 212, §§ 2-3).
We wish to raise our grave concern with the recent apostolic visitation of Bishop Joseph E. Strickland and the Diocese of Tyler by papal representatives. There are two grounds for our concern. First, no special circumstances exist in the Diocese of Tyler, whether spiritual or administrative, that warrant an apostolic visitation. Second, the visit to a diocese without such special circumstances when public and demonstrably grave circumstances of heterodoxy and moral failure exist in other unvisited dioceses worldwide raises legitimate questions about the justice and charity of the process, as well as potentially gives rise to scandal among the faithful.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler
The existence and content of this letter are entirely unknown to Bishop Strickland (or any other clerics within or without the diocese). He likely would not approve of such action by the faithful. But our concerns are only secondarily related to Bishop Strickland and the Diocese of Tyler. This communication concerns our superior obligation to truth, justice, charity, and our love for the Catholic Church.
No one knows the character and ministry of Bishop Joseph E. Strickland like the Catholic faithful of this diocese. Our diocese is small, and Bishop Strickland has served as our bishop for well over a decade, ministering as a priest in our diocese before that, and, in fact, he was raised among us in East Texas. He has been in our homes, faithfully preached the gospel to us, baptized our children, corrected us when necessary, and buried our dead for as long as many can remember. In all respects, he is a faithful bishop and son of Holy Mother Church.
We express our filial love for the Holy Father and respect for the visitors assigned to conduct the recent canonical visit, and we make no claim to all the facts surrounding the recent apostolic visit. However, we possess relevant information regarding our bishop and the functioning of the diocese. We humbly submit that it is reasonable to conclude that the knowledge of the Catholic faithful in the diocese regarding the bishop and the spiritual and administrative functioning of the diocese is, in many respects, greater than outside visitors with a transient investigative mission of extremely short duration.
For this reason, we request that, in the interest of justice and truth, great weight be given to the widespread support and opinions of the faithful of the Diocese of Tyler, who have more reason to know Bishop Strickland than perhaps anyone else.
No special circumstances, whether spiritual or administrative, exist in the Diocese of Tyler
It is well-known that canonical visitations are conducted by papal representatives with a transient mission of short duration to investigate special circumstances in a diocese and to submit a report to the Holy See after the investigation.
While no doubt specific complaints and/or allegations triggered the apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Tyler. We who know the diocese and the bishop well, however, assert that no special circumstances in our diocese exist warranting an apostolic visitation. The diocese is spiritually healthy; there is no heterodoxy, no mishandling of sexual abuse cases, no internal corruption, and no public moral failures by the bishop or clergy members.
For decades, Bishop Strickland’s preaching and public statements have affirmed and defended the deposit of faith found within the canonical books of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and indefectibly preserved by the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. This is widely known and appreciated in our diocese.
Even when Bishop Strickland perceived it his duty to oppose error publicly, he has always done so with charity, distinguishing between persons or offices and error. This is to be expected from all the successors of the apostles, who are commissioned to teach with the authority of Jesus Christ.
If objections have been raised to Bishop Strickland’s very rare opposition to the actions or teachings of a clergy member or even a member of the hierarchy, that criticism itself is not an automatic or sufficient basis for canonical action. As Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas make clear, fraternal correction is a work of mercy and may be publicly necessary when it is the only or surest way to protect the common good.
If it is believed that statements by Bishop Strickland have been rash and against the rule of prudence, justice requires that the specific statements be subjected to the rigorous and transparent scrutiny of truth, given that statements intended as an exercise of the work of mercy are only against the rule of prudence when they are formed without sufficient certitude.
Finally, if they exist, administrative shortcomings are correctible unless they rise to the level of demonstrable corruption, constitute intentional mismanagement, or reveal administrative incompetence that demonstrably harms the mission and work of the diocese. Such is not the case here. While some administrative shortcomings exist in virtually all organizations, the Diocese of Tyler has no apparent issues that constitute special circumstances warranting an apostolic visitation.
The visit to a diocese without special circumstances warranting a canonical visit, while some dioceses are publicly known to have administrative problems and some bishops make heterodox public statements without such a visit, appears unjust and gives rise to scandal.
Neither the Diocese of Tyler nor its bishop are without imperfections and weaknesses. Nonetheless, it is a healthy diocese, and Bishop Strickland is an orthodox and pastoral bishop when the worldwide Catholic Church needs such shepherds due to the grave crises she faces.
There are undeniable and numerous scandalous moral failures among the clergy. This is not the case in the Diocese of Tyler. Weekly Mass attendance has dropped precipitously almost everywhere, but not in the Diocese of Tyler. It is reported that the number of people who left the practice of the Catholic Faith increased from under 2 million in 1975 to over 30 million today, but the Diocese of Tyler is growing. Statements contrary to the Faith are widely made throughout the Church by clerics and even members of the hierarchy, but not in the Diocese of Tyler. Still, the Diocese of Tyler receives an apostolic visitation, while others with obvious “special circumstances” go unvisited and uncorrected.
This reality cannot help but raise serious questions about the justice of the recent apostolic visitation to Tyler, Texas. Worse, it could lead to the spiritual evil of scandal.
We are not suggesting that the apostolic visit to the Diocese of Tyler was evil. For the faithful to make such a claim could itself be a great evil. But St. Thomas Aquinas noted that people are said to take scandal when they are led to sin because of another person’s act that is not quite right. We are particularly concerned with what Holy Scripture calls the scandal of “the little ones” (Matthew 18:6) when people are scandalized because of their weakness.
We are deeply concerned that it is not quite right when a diocese like the Diocese of Tyler and a bishop like Bishop Joseph Strickland receive an investigative apostolic visitation while scores of severe errors in other dioceses go uninvestigated. We are, after all, only lay faithful, and we are weak. But we know our bishop, our diocese, and we are disturbed by a process that appears insufficiently supported by evidence of the sort and extent that would justify an apostolic investigation when compared with the scores of public things in the worldwide Church that do break our hearts.
Your Excellency, we are addressing this letter to you because you are the Holy Father’s personal and official representative to the Church in the United States. We respectfully request two things of you. First, we request that you take the steps necessary to communicate the depth of the concerns of the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Tyler to the Holy Father. Second, we request that you communicate to the Holy Father the filial appeal that we not be left without the local shepherd who has taken so seriously his appeal to be a shepherd with the “smell of the sheep.”
We humbly request your blessing, and assure you of our prayers, our filial devotion to the Vicar of Christ, and our fidelity to the whole deposit of faith indefectibly preserved by the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium of the Church.
The Catholic Faithful of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas
Pledge your prayers for Bp. Strickland HERE