Synodality and the Strickland Case, by Phil Lawler

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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Nov 17, 2023

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at

After a month of Vatican insistence on listening to all perspectives, it is ironic, to say the least, that the next big news story was the removal of an American bishop, apparently for talking too much. But never mind the mixed messages. The ouster of Bishop Joseph Strickland could harm the cause of synodal government in another important way.

In its terse announcement of the bishop’s removal the Vatican did not explain why Bishop Strickland had to go. Such announcements from Rome never come with explanations. So when a bishop leaves before normal retirement age the faithful are left to wonder: did he jump or was he pushed? Was he forced to step down because of some serious disease, or because of the impending revelation of some serious misconduct? For reasons I cannot discern (is it a chronic aversion to transparency?) the Vatican does not distinguish between the prelates who have betrayed their trust and those who have simply fallen ill. ….