My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
From November 12-15, I will be in Baltimore attending the Fall General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops of the United States. After beginning with a full day of spiritual discernment and prayer, the bishops will discuss and vote on a series of concrete measures to respond to the abuse crisis. There has certainly been righteous anger directed toward the bishops for the sinful behavior of some, as well as our failure to properly handle allegations of abuse, but with God’s grace, I am hopeful in our ability to implement the necessary reforms.
I want to take this opportunity to share with you my “agenda” for this meeting and for our diocese, so that each of you will know where I stand on the issues faced by the Church today.
Accountability. Accountability, for how bishops govern the Church and themselves, must be addressed to help ensure that our focus remains on being spiritual and moral leaders whose primary work is to promote the faith for the salvation of souls. Our faith calls us to uphold divinely revealed truth which guides us to our God given destiny in heaven. This is my commitment, as your bishop, and I ask the assistance of all priests, deacons, religious and all the faithful in helping me to live this focus.
Church Teaching. As shepherds of Christ's flock, bishops must emphasize that the entire deposit of faith of the Catholic Church is Good News. Living the Gospel virtues, as we seek eternal salvation, is what our lives must be built upon. Basic moral teachings are immutable and living a moral life is the only foundation from which we can hope to promote Gospel inspired social justice. As your bishop, I am committed to sharing this rich deposit of faith and promoting a virtuous life in Jesus Christ for all in the diocese. This will give us the strength to change our world and address injustice in all its forms.
Family. Support for every family is essential, beginning with promoting the model that is divinely revealed to us - one man and one woman who are committed to a lifelong marriage and are open to the conception of children. Marriage between a man and a woman is the only moral place for sexual intimacy and I intend to continue to teach this with clarity and fervor. While the Church rejects no individual or family who struggles and, at times, fails to live up to this ideal, it must be maintained as the model for human society. We must cling to the divinely revealed truth of our faith as we seek to assist those who have wandered from the truth that sets God’s people free.
Immoral Behavior. Immoral behavior of any kind among the hierarchy and clergy must be investigated and corrected. Sexual misconduct, especially abuse of minors and homosexual predation, must be eradicated. Duplicity regarding power or finances must be eliminated. A clear commitment to lives of Gospel virtues must guide every bishop and, as your bishop, I am committed to calling all of us away from sin and corruption and echoing the words of our Lord, "Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more".
Seminarians. My brother bishops and I are obligated to ensure that our seminarians are well formed and that their seminaries are places where Gospel virtues are taught and lived. Any threat of immoral behavior or abuse of men in formation for the priesthood must be eliminated. These good men deserve guidance in holiness and education in the riches of our Catholic faith so that they can joyfully serve in the light of Christ for the future of the diocese. The focus of their formation must be for the salvation of their own souls and the souls of the faithful they will serve.
Considering the challenges we face, I ask for your continued prayers in three areas: for the healing and support of all victims of clergy sexual abuse; for the conversion and just punishment of the perpetrators and concealers of sexual abuse; and for the strength of the bishops to be holy shepherds in protecting and leading our sheep from all harm.
May God bless you with every good and strength and may our Blessed Mother always intercede for you.
With assurances of my prayers for all of you, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Joseph E. Strickland
Bishop of Tyler
November 9, 2018
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica