With the removal of Bishop Strickland from the helm in the diocese of Tyler, Texas, this past week, I’m seeing a lot of reactions all over social media. It’s playing like there was an assassination. But out in the real world not a single person I’ve asked has heard about it, or even heard of Bishop Strickland at all. This divide between the “internet church” and the “real” church is nothing new. Most of what we’re following, reading, commenting on, or are exposed to on social media is mainly foreign to Catholics off of the internet. I never saw a clown mass in my life until I saw a picture of one on the internet. I’d never even heard of it before then.
Catholics “offline” are sometimes out of important loops. But mostly, I find they’re focused on things that matter most—being Catholic and living good lives, building virtue. They’ve never heard of Bishop So-and-So, they don’t know what “RadTrad” or “Modernist” means, and they’re mostly unfamiliar with anything outside their own diocese. It reminds me of the old days! The Catholic experience was small, local, and intimate, with no noise or drama.
At the end of the day, the dismissal of a Bishop is always unfortunate, whoever it is. But it isn’t an assassination. It really isn’t something that shakes the whole Church. Yet that’s what we turn it into online. I like Bishop Strickland. I know some people have issues with him or his style, but I’m unaware of those things that form their opinions. From what I have seen/read—which perhaps isn’t so much as what others have seen/read—he seems like a holy priest, truthful and charitable. I’m not happy about his removal, but it isn’t my diocese he was removed from, so I’m not that upset. He’ll continue to post to social media, continue his radio spots, and continue being a good priest. So that satisfies me. I wasn’t a fan of “the Bishop of Tyler, Texas”; I was merely a fan of the priest named Bishop Joseph Strickland.
I don’t know why so many Catholics online are blowing this up. I know it’s upsetting, but it’s not the earth-shaker many are making it out to be. It really, really isn’t. Bishops are appointed and dismissed all the time. Perhaps there aren’t as many dismissals as there need to be (#Germany). Certainly, there isn’t enough Vatican intervention when it comes to vocal heterodox priests (#FrMartin!). But, the activity throughout the global church does not affect my pursuit of holiness. And it does not affect yours. Let’s concern ourselves a little less with the goings-on of the Church in the Diocese of “Not-My-Diocese” and be more like the blissfully ignorant “offline” Catholics who focus more on the virtues and less on the politics and machinery of the Church. That kind of focus will make saints of us. And that’s what it’s all about.
Please don’t interpret this blog post as being about Bishop Strickland. What I’m saying here is based on years of observations, and this Strickland affair has just resurfaced it.