Why is a Catholic bishop tweeting about QAnon?
Last weekend, the leading voices of the QAnon camp gathered in Las Vegas to discuss the state of the world and the future of their movement. Among the VIPs at the convention were Jim and Ron Watkins, a father-son couple accused of having invented conspiracy theory.
But the speech that ultimately gained the most attention was that of actor Jim Caviezel, who is best known – at least among the conservative Christian crowd – for playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film. The passion of Christ. Caviezel’s speech, which amounted to a literal call to arms against liberal worldview, concluded with the proclamation that “the storm is upon us” – a direct invocation of QAnon’s central conspiracy theory.
On Monday, Caviezel’s speech was quoted with approval by a Catholic bishop. âEveryone must listen to this speech,â wrote Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler, Texas.
While Strickland didn’t directly refer to QAnon in his tweet, his critics weren’t surprised that he agreed with the sentiment. Strickland, who is 62, rose to prominence in the Church of Texas by blogging about his daily jogging, priestly duties, parish activities, and possible elevation from priest to bishop under Pope Benedict in 2012. He has maintained its online presence since then. , and despite being just one of some 250 bishops in the United States, he leveraged his platform to become one of the leading voices of the Catholic right.
In 2018, Strickland supported Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganÃ²’s outing against Pope Francis, accusing him of covering up allegations of sexual abuse. Strickland was from that time associated with the opposition Francis. He went on to accuse the Church of having a “deep state” and challenge the Pope to fire him for “not being politically correct”.
Its interference in secular politics is even more direct. A fierce critic of President Joe Biden and all other Catholic Democrats, Strickland has generally focused his energy on screaming against same-sex marriage and, more emphatically, against abortion, branding supporters of the right to abortion as agents of evil. . But these aren’t the only issues Strickland cares about, and while his position on abortion is in line with Catholic teaching, several other positions don’t at all.
The most shocking proof of this came from his strong support for a blogger priest named Bro. James Altman, whose reactionary positions led his own Bishop of Wisconsin to ask him to resign. (Altman is currently challenging his ouster in a canonical appeal.) Altman sparked a firestorm in 2020 with a video titled “You can’t be a Catholic and a Democrat.” Period. âIn the video, he claimed Democrats would burn in hell because of the party’s support for abortion rights, DACA and climate change mitigation efforts.
“As Bishop of Tyler, I endorse Father Altman’s statement in this video,” Strickland wrote on Twitter in response. âMy shame is that it took me so long. Thank you Father Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus and his Church and this nationâ¦ please HIRE THIS MESSAGE.
In following videos, Altman said climate change and COVID were hoaxes, made homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments, blasted Black Lives Matter and “cancel the culture,” blamed Breanna Taylor’s death on her choice of boyfriends, urged Catholics to avoid COVID vaccine, called the January 6 insurgency a “false flag operation” and accuses Pope Francis of “betraying[ing God] like Judas. Strickland only doubled his support for Altman, tweeting that the priest was “in trouble only for telling the truth.” For a while the spectators speculated that Altman would try to transfer to the Diocese of Strickland for safety.
Strickland loves to be in the news. He led a prayer for a national rally against electoral fraud. He continued to COVID vaccine crusade, which he falsely claims uses fetal cells from abortions. He also agreed to sponsor a project called “Veritatis Splendor” which plans to establish a 600 acre commune for conservative Catholics to break free from the perceived anemia of liberal Catholicism. For critics, each of these positions shows one thing clear about Strickland: He is eager to fight.
Like many conservative Catholics who feel their worldview has been sidelined by the papacy of Francis, Strickland often speaks of the ascendancy of evil and sin in the world and the urgent need to overturn the current state. things. In an interview last year, Strickland recalled meeting Francis with disdain. “The world is collapsing and Pope Francis has been very cordial, very welcoming,” he said. noted. âBut like I said, I mean, when a leg has been severed and we’re bleeding, I don’t think we really need a cordial and welcoming. We need something more.
It was also, in the end, Caviezel’s message. In his 20-minute speech, the actor spoke about sex trafficking and abortion, the welfare state, the corrosion of freedoms and the vague misdeeds of liberalism. He compared the current state of the country to that of enslaved Israelites, or oppressed American colonies, or Europe in the face of the threat of Nazi Germany. âWe are now at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced humanity,â Caviezel said. He continued:
There is only one guaranteed way to have peace and you can have it in the next second: surrender. Certainly, there is a risk with any course we take other than this one. But the lesson is that history tells us that the greatest risk lies in appeasement. And this is the specter that our well-meaning liberal Christian friends refuse to face. Our priests, our pastors, and now, unfortunately, even our Pope. Our accommodation policy is appeasement and it leaves us no choice between peace and war, only between combat and surrender.
Caviezel then quoted in the entirety of Gibson’s final speech in Brave Heart in which William Wallace’s character urges Scottish soldiers to sacrifice their lives for freedom. (Gibson, whom Caviezel mentioned on several occasions, is also strongly associated with the marginal Catholic right and recently spoke at a event for “canceled” priests.) “My fellow Americans, you and I have a date with fate,” Caviezel said. âWe are heading for the storm of all storms. Yes, the storm is upon us, but not without Jesus as a rudder.
Strickland’s support for Caviezel’s speech was not so surprising to his detractors, given that he has previously agreed to a conspiratorial thought: he sign a letter earlier in the year claiming that the COVID pandemic had been used as a “pretext” to deprive Americans of their freedoms and promote a “world government”. There is, after all, some DNA shared between QAnon and the conspiratorial Catholic Right. Each has their Byzantine conspiracy theories laying depraved and satanic evil at the heart of their respective institutions. But Strickland’s situation shows that their similarity runs deeper. As with the leaders of QAnon, it is not Strickland’s weird and unfounded beliefs that cause Catholics to worry about the division in the Church – it is his directive to his followers to fight for them.