Meet the ‘Red-Pilled’ Shepherd

Bishop Joseph Strickland, 60, of Tyler, Texas, spoke with Register senior editor Matthew Bunson the day Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s April 11 essay was published on the sexual-abuse crisis about the importance of Catholic teaching and being rooted to Christ and the Eucharist — and how he has hope in the prayerful observance of the laity of his flock.

What were some of the standout aspects to the essay, especially as it relates to the sex-abuse crisis?

Well, we could talk for a long time. There were many standout aspects, but certainly the way he began: that, really, the foundation is embracing God, our Creator, and not rejecting that. And he speaks somewhat at length about the perils of a nation or a world that rejects the concept that we come from a loving God. So I think that was key.

As a child — I’m 60 years old —  I grew up in the time that he was referencing, talking about 1968 and all of that. I think the sexual revolution, as it’s been called, the points he made about that and how it has served to undermine humanity; I think that the realities about some of the atrocities in seminaries that he alluded to, with being shown pornographic movies in the seminary to supposedly teach you chastity or whatever; so many things that he said just were spot-on with where things went awry.

And, thankfully, he didn’t just leave us there and say, “Isn’t this devastating?” But he reminds us of where we get back on track.

Really, in a very humbling way, it astonished me how it resonates with everything I’m trying to do as a bishop in using the phrase “deposit of faith.” … As I’d said at the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore last November, that’s one of our promises: to guard the deposit of faith. And I think that this [essay] is about that in a very significant and very broad sense.

So like I said, I could go on and on, but there were many key elements of this [essay] that I think will need to continue to be unpacked, with what it says to us and how it supports being the Church, not that we create, but the Church that comes from Christ. … [The essay is] about having Christ as our Lord and Savior and living that truth and embracing Christ and knowing he’s a real Person. I said, I could go on and on.

The speaking of the Real Presence, I think that is so spot-on, as well. And it really all resonates with exactly what I feel the Holy Spirit has been rekindling in my heart and in my life, as well, because in many ways, going back to real faith in the Real Presence — that Christ is truly there in consecrated bread and wine — I think that is essential to getting back to the true Church that Christ has established.

As Pope Emeritus Benedict says beautifully, the Church is there, it will be there, in the faithful people that are believing and celebrating the sacraments. But we’ve got to make that side of the reality of the Church much more exposed to the world to re-evangelize the world that we live in.

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