A New Letter from Bishop Strickland

Source: FSSPX News

The dismissed Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Tyler (Texas), Bishop Joseph Strickland, posted a new letter on his Substack, which could be interpreted as a “declaration,” dated July 1, 2024. The occasion for it is the text published by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, whose Prefect is Cardinal Kurt Koch.

The text has already been attacked by Bishop Marian Eleganti, and this is probably not the last time, because it contains elements dangerous to the Catholic Faith. The letter of the Bishop Emeritus of Tyler is interesting because of the evolution of his thinking, especially in defense of the traditional Mass and in his criticism of the direction of the current pontificate.

The title immediately announces the subject, “Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church.” After recalling that the Church “brings forth Christ’s saving mission in the world” and that it is a mystery, the Bishop criticizes the cited text:

“And should we attempt to make the Church more ‘synodal’ by a fraternal collaboration – in other words, by listening to men and attempting to modify immutable definitions of the Church, the sacraments, and the Papal office according to the various definitions of men?

“If we seek to do any of these things in an attempt to take away the ‘mystery’ of the Church then there is danger of finding ourselves in a Church that is no longer Catholic – but is instead an ‘ape’ of Christ’s Church.”

The Murky Role of Francis

Then he recalls the divine origin of the Church, founded by Christ who guides her: “Therefore, any efforts made to replace the divine nature of the Church or to change her into a form more acceptable to the world – even if these attempts come about by the hands of the Holy Father himself – will not succeed because the Church IS divine in nature, and therefore its substance and essence cannot be changed by man.”

Let us note that Bishop Strickland does not hesitate to place blame on Pope Francis for attempts to change the divine nature of the Church. And he is going to drive home this criticism, after having recalled the essential role of the Pope in the Church, according to the words of Christ in Mt. 16: 18-19.

“However, in these early years of the third millennium AD, an increasingly large number of faithful Catholics across the world find themselves deeply confused, concerned, and at times appalled by the confusing words and actions of the present occupant of the Chair of Peter, and the newly-released study document, ‘The Bishop of Rome,’ only adds to this confusion.”

Bishop Stickland recognizes that his words are strong, even troubling, regarding the papal office, but he feels that he “must speak them.” His reason: “Love of Jesus Christ who is Truth Incarnate, love of the Church He established, love of the Petrine [papal] Office which is traced back to St. Peter himself, and love of Pope Francis all compel me to do so.”

It is also interesting to note that he says: “As a removed bishop I find myself in a unique position that calls me and allows me to ‘speak for the flock’ as never before.”

Defense of the Traditional Mass in the Name of Tradition

Then the letter moves on to the defense of the Tridentine Mass. Bishop Strickland’s emphases recall the arguments used by defenders of tradition, since the first attacks against the Mass after the Council: “At this same time, we also see an attempt from the Vatican to separate the Church from its traditional past,” in a general way. Then he moves on to the Mass.

“The Mass which uses the 1962 Roman Missal is known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite or the Tridentine or Traditional Latin Mass. It is the Mass that has been used for centuries, and it is this mass that was codified after the Council of Trent in the 16th Century. However, after Vatican II [...] many of the prayers were changed or eliminated. Additionally, many other changes took place which moved the Church away from this Mass of the Ages.”

The criticism continues, and it is interesting to note that it takes up the arguments opposed by upholders of tradition: “Although not specifically directed by the Council, following Vatican II, communion in the hand became commonplace and priests began facing the people rather than facing the altar as had been the custom of the Church for well over a millennium.”

Bishop Strickland then cites the Bull Quo primum of St. Pius V: “By this our decree, to be valid IN PERPETUITY [emphasized by Bishop Strickland], we determine and order that NEVER [idem] shall anything be added to, omitted from, or changed in this Missal.” He then recalls Rome’s rejection of this missal after 1970, and the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, affirming that “this Missal {1962} was never juridically abrogated.”

But “with Pope Francis’s motu proprio, ‘Traditionis custodes,’ he has embarked on a journey to suppress what other popes have sought to guard, and what Pope St. Pius V said shall be valid in perpetuity. This is deeply concerning.” He adds that, in the mission given to St. Peter, “Nothing is said about a collaboration of men to reimagine a synodal structure for His Church.”

He concludes by returning to the criticism of the Pope: “it is reasonable to express profound concern regarding Pope Francis’s words and actions during his pontificate. I believe it is a disservice to the Petrine office and to Pope Francis himself to simply say, ‘He’s the Pope; we must obey.’ (Cf. Galatians 2:11-14).”

He continues: “I find it to be especially disconcerting that this Pontificate apparently seeks to diminish papal authority and a centralized structure in favor of a more synodal way, while at the same time [...] wielding papal power with great force, as evidenced by the suppression of faithful traditional communities and the Traditional Latin Mass.”

The Bishop Emeritus of Tyler concludes his letter by quoting Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who, “In 1947, [...] saw the Church in the future dividing into two groups” with the establishment of “a Church ‘which will be the ape of the Church because, he the devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content.’ [...] ‘Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God…’”