TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Bishop Joseph Strickland, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, signed a document promoted by conservative Catholics that alleges the response to the coronavirus pandemic is “a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond our control.”
Strickland was joined by a number of bishops from around the world in countries such as Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Austria for the May 7 document. The Tyler Diocese consists of 33 East Texas counties, including Smith, Gregg, Angelina, Cherokee, and Nacogdoches.
The piece is titled “Appeal for the Church and the world to Catholics and all people of good will” and is written by Archbishop Carlo Viganò, a former Apostolic Nuncio which is someone that serves as a permanent representative for the Vatican.
Viganò begins by writing that: “…under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted.”
He also states that public health cannot “become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world.”
Viganò claims that panic is being purposefully created to the pandemic with the sole aim of “permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restrictions on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements.”
Strickland was one of the last bishops in Texas to temporarily close Catholic churches in his diocese during the coronavirus pandemic. During a virtual Mass, he called it one of the hardest decisions he made as a bishop sicne rising to the position back in 2012.
The diocese has re-opened masses for attendance, but with heavy social distancing restrictions, including masks and that every other row be left empty to maintain six feet of separation.
While he urges for the scientific community to find cures for the virus, he writes that it would be morally unacceptable for Catholics around the world to develop or use vaccines derived from aborted fetuses.
Strickland wrote last month on Twitter that he would refuse any coronavirus vaccine that was developed from an aborted fetus, saying “I will not kill children to live.”
A phone call placed to Strickland’s office for comment was not immediately returned.
Viganò closes his statement by calling Catholics around the world to take a stand: “either with Christ or against Christ” and “Let us not allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus…”
Strickland has earned a reputation nationally as a staunch conservative bishop and is regularly praised by national pro-life groups. In March, Strickland was the lone bishop from Texas that refused to back a bid by Gov. Abbott, who is also Catholic, in “waiving regulations and statutes which could result in fines, civil liability, and even criminal charges for decisions related to the allocation of resources during this [pandemic].”
Strickland argued that the policy would “negate the excellent laws [Abbott] has helped put in place to protect the vulnerable.”
To view the whole document, click here.