Recently, the Vatican conducted an apostolic visitation, which is a rare disciplinary investigation, into the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas, which operates under the leadership of Bishop Joseph E. Strickland. Bishop Strickland is known for his conservative views and has been vocal in publicly expressing criticisms of Pope Francis. The apostolic visitation, regarded as a method of church discipline employed by the Vatican to address concerns regarding certain clerics, has been initiated following a series of controversies surrounding Bishop Strickland. The bishop has drawn criticism for his support of priests who have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine despite instructions from their respective Catholic bishops.
Religion News Service reports:
(RNS) — The Vatican subjected the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas, to an apostolic visitation last week, a rare disciplinary investigation by the Holy See into the diocese overseen by Bishop Joseph E. Strickland, a controversial firebrand conservative cleric who has publicly criticized Pope Francis.
A representative for the diocese confirmed reports of the visitation to Religion News Service on Monday (June 26), saying that it occurred last week.
“It did happen, yes, and we’re not able to share any information beyond that,” the representative said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops referred RNS to the Vatican, whose representatives had earlier declined to confirm or deny that the visitation had occurred.
Reports of the investigation began to circulate over the weekend in various conservative media outlets, including LifeSite and the Church Militant, but it was first confirmed by the diocese itself to the National Catholic Reporter on Monday.
The visitation, a form of church discipline used to rein in clerics seen by the Vatican to be problematic, comes in the wake of years of controversy surrounding Strickland. An outspoken conservative with an active Twitter presence, Strickland has infuriated critics for supporting priests who defied their own Catholic bishops by refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Strickland also offered a prayer at a “Jericho March” event in Washington, D.C. in the days leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
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