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Archbishop Chaput, the Pope’s man, has just been promoted to Philadelphia: we could do with a few appointments like that here

That depends on our new nuncio: and fingers crossed, he’s the Pope’s man too

By on Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The new Archbishop of Philadelphia was a 'highly personal choice' by the Pope  (CNS photo)

The new Archbishop of Philadelphia was a 'highly personal choice' by the Pope (CNS photo)

The Pope has just made an interesting appointment. It is of the present Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput (pronounced “shap-you”), who is to be the next archbishop of the 1.5-million strong Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He will replace the more low-key Cardinal Justin Rigali, who has been archbishop since October 2003. This is a large and important see: its incumbent gets a red hat and he will have the national profile that implies. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Admirers and critics alike describe the outspoken Chaput, 66, as a politically attuned and emphatically conservative champion of Catholic values who will seek to re-energise Catholic identity here”.

So, that’s OK then. This is an appointment in which the Pope is personally involved; Chaput is emphatically his man: according to the well-informed John Allen Jr, “sources” told him that “Chaput was a highly personal choice by Pope Benedict”. There will, according to Allen, be in the archdiocese a major change, both of style and policy:

As Philadelphia Catholics get to know their new leader, the overall contrast with Rigali – known as a behind-the-scenes power-broker, who prefers to keep a fairly low public profile – could be jarring.

Far more outspoken, Chaput has emerged over the years as a prominent lightning rod for controversy. He’s seen as a strong voice for doctrinal orthodoxy, and he champions a robust role for people of faith in political life.

Among other battles, Chaput has clashed with pro-choice Catholic politicians, publicly rebuked the University of Notre Dame for awarding an honorary doctorate to President Barack Obama, and has been a strong force in national debates over gay marriage and embryonic stem-cell research.

Chaput has also sternly called Catholics to adhere to Church teaching. In a recent address to a group of Catholic social workers, for instance, he insisted that Church-affiliated charities “have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues”.

Ahead of the 2008 elections, Chaput published a book titled Render unto Caesar, insisting that “people who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith”. Given that Pennsylvania is a major battleground state in American politics, Chaput’s visibility and influence seems likely to grow.

It all sounds pretty good to me: but what some of John Allen’s readers say (Allen of course writes for the ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter) practically sizzles on the screen.

He is, says one correspondent, “the very worst man for the job in Philadelphia… This man has inflicted more damage on priests and lay people in the past decade that we should not be in the least surprised that Ratzinger [Benedict XVI], would select someone such as this to carry on the rightwing agenda of the restorationist movement. …” Here’s another: ‘Chaput is a clone of the Johannine/Benedictine pattern of ruling… The entire system of selecting bishops must be opened up to a centuries old tradition of popular election by deacons, priest, laity, with confirmation of his appointment by neighboring bishops. [In other words, copy the currently disintegrating American Episcopal church] …. Here’s a third free-thinking malcontent: “The Vatican and B16 are only carrying out their plan: Wreck the church. Hope any mature Catholic will leave in disgust. Afterwards, hunker down behind the Vatican walls, with all the gold in the coffers…”

Well, there you have it: an excellent choice for Philadelphia. Archbishop Chaput has been a huge pastoral success in Denver; replying to the above comments, one member of his archdiocese, a deacon, said simply: “We are very sad to see him leave Denver… Archbishop Chaput is gentle, intelligent, and can speak the Truth in words that are kind and compassionate… that is, if you are willing to hear the Truth. He is a great Catholic archbishop, who works tirelessly!” He is not just pastoral and tough-minded but highly, incisively, intelligent. If you want to get a flavour of his mind, have a look at his official website, which gives links to interviews, statements, addresses, newspaper columns, pastoral addresses and so on.

I wish we had someone of remotely the same quality rising through the ranks in the English Church. I’m not saying they’re not there: it’s just that so far, the way things have worked in the English Church has militated heavily against them ever leaving their parishes (though there could be one exception; guess who). As my readers will know, however, I live in what I believe to be a state of realistic hope. We now have a papal nuncio who has made it plain that he is, like Archbishop Chaput, the Pope’s man. Over the coming years he will be compiling a number of vitally important ternas. In a decade from now, English Catholicism may well have been completely transformed. We need to pray for it: if we do, we may in the end be astonished by the answer to our prayers.

  • Wee Jock

    I wish we had someone like that in Scotland. Our own bishops talk a good game and then come down hard on priests who are truly devoted saving to defenceless life as did the late Canon Morrow.

  • Wee Jock

    I wish we had someone like that in Scotland. Our own bishops talk a good game and then come down hard on priests who are truly devoted saving to defenceless life as did the late Canon Morrow.

  • Anonymous

    “I wish we had someone of remotely the same quality rising through the ranks in the English Church.”

    I am a massive fan of the new bishop of Shrewsbury, who has allowed the ICKSP to taken over a disused church in Wirral, and who apparently wants to reorder his cathedral back to something approaching an appropriate state. All in all I am looking forward to a future Cardinal Davies.

  • W Oddie

    Agreed; that’s who I meant, of course, when I said “there could be one exception; guess who”

  • Disappointed

    I hope the papal nuncio has noticed the conference being hosted by the Archdiocese of Westminster’s pastoral retreat centre this weekend:

    http://spuc-director.blogspot.com/2011/07/archbishop-nichols-pastoral-centre-to.html

  • Anonymous

    It’s not going to happen
    +Arnold goes to Liverpool
    +Hopes to East Anglia…

    ..and the systemic rout of Catholicism will continue unabated.

    Sick of the lot of them – even the semi-decent ones should refuse to have anything to do with a Bishops Conference which is defiantly conspiring with the Culture of Death, with heterodoxy and the dissolution of Catholic moral teaching and social praxis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    Indeed we could. Here being Scotland in this case.

  • nigel

    The Nuncio compiles a list of priests who might be suitable candidates for episcopacy. This usually means names sent by the current bishops – however if there is a priest you think has the right qualities there is no reason why you should not write to the Nuncio with a brief biography and an indication of the qualities you discern. He can’t consider priests he doesn’t know about, and if your suggestion intrigues him the Nuncio will make his own discreet enquiries.

  • Jeannine

    Please pray for Archbishop Chaput! He will have a very difficult & large diocese to manage & readily admits his forte is not in administration. His evangelical-like personality might be a hard sell for any reserved, New England-North Atlantic state, established diocese.

  • Florin S.

    Yes, please pray for Arch. Chaput because liberal ‘Catholic’ politicians are going to give him a lot of grief.  Some of our Bishops turn the other way when ‘Catholic’ politicians like Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, the Kennedys et al continue to receive Holy Communion despite the fact that they aggressively advance the pro abortion agenda here an in other countries…maybe Arch. Chaput can bring those Bishops to where they will carry out their mandate of advancing the agenda of life – of Christ.

  • W Oddie

    Don’t agree. It will be + Davies to Liverpool. I’ll bet you anything. For a start.

  • Honeybadger

    I’m also a huge fan of the brilliant Bishop Davies. In his tenure, so far, he has made positive waves. Keep them coming, Your Lordship! You are assured of our continuous prayers…

    Archbishop Chaput is, yet again, a masterstroke choice by our Holy Father. A competent shepherd needs reliable, efficient sheepdogs… we are in dire need of them, especially here and in Ireland!

  • GFFM

    The NCR is really not the media arm to look to for an assessment of Archbishop Chaput. The quote you reference concerning social workers by Allen isn’t really an example of a controversial position, if you are a Catholic who believes in mainstream Catholic teaching. This is actually a very momentous appointment–much more significant than Archbishop Dolan being elected to the presidency of the USCCB. Traditionally, and unfortunately “non-controversial” prelates get elected. Dolan is such a man. In Milwaukee he did very little to clean up Weakland’s mess, very little indeed. Chaput, on the other hand is quite different, he is a cultured, well-educated man who is not afraid to speak truth on issues such as religious freedom (one of his favorite themes), the meaning of sexuality and therefore the ultimate meaning of marriage. He is theologically astute and he has traveled throughout the world speaking on a very wide variety of subjects from life issues, to the nature of beauty, to the stewardship of the creation. He also understands well how the US government works and where it is heading. Moreover, he possesses a gravitas that episcopal leadership needs right now in the US and throughout the world.  He should be in New York; but Philadelphia will do. Already, unofficially for the last several years, he has really been the true leader of the American Church. Certainly Cardinals George, Rigali, and Mahoney have not been–always coming late to the debate or not coming at all. Archbishop Chaput will never come late to the ball.

  • GFFM

    The Congregation for Bishops is part of the process as well and it is been a divided body in some ways. Rigali has headed it for years. His role will now diminish which is good. Cardinal Burke is on this Congregation and possibly his role will increase.

  • GFFM

    Chaput, or “Good Eagle,” his Lakota name, is unflappable. He will be fine and he will make a difference.

  • Sclerotic

    Christmas has come early to Denver.

  • GFFM

    Let me add to what I have said about Chaput. He is essentially a “clean up” man as we say in the States. Word was he would stay in Denver because he was too outspoken for a large See. If he had been in New York, I doubt the deconstruction of marriage in the New York Legislature would have happened. Andrew Cuomo is not as smart nor as charismatic and the Archbishop is tireless. We can hope that he shows Dolan the way.

  • Jeannine

    I was thinking the same thing about Dolan. ———-> The NY archbishop has got to show some more spine!

  • Joxxer

    More conservative Catholics are delighted that he has been appointed and have the utmost confidence in his abilities to do the proper job. You are correct we need more like him to stand up and stick to Roman Catholic teaching and not give in the the P/C crowd. For what it is worht he has my backing and may God bless him!

  • Annalisa

    Thank you Mr John Allen, now we know that Archbishop Chaput IS the right man for the job. God bless Archbishop Chaput!

  • Bb Short

    the comments section doesn’t read too well. The man Chaput is a bulldog to destroy Catholicism.  The movement in the Vatican is to destroy the Church from within.  Read Pope Pius X’s encyclical about Modernism he has written at least three of them. I believe one is the biggie and the others are supplements.

    Infiltration of the Holy See.  Nothing new, it has been done several times in the past centuries. A Pope even left the Holy See to reside in France in the past sometime in the 12th century 1300 AD.  Well there you go.  When men look to the horizontal instead of the Vertical, you lose the Light. Light illuminates.  As written by St. John concerning the Light of the World the High Priest, the Eternal Pontiff Jesus Christ. And priests are the the little lights to bring the Great Light to Souls. But, to bring the Great Tribulation along, Satan has to drag a third of these little lights to his side in order to put the Abomination of Desolation in to full gear. It is written in ink. Apocalypse 9.

    So, when you see the Abomination of Desolation taking place: you must flee to the mountains. Matthew 24, Daniel’s  Book, Ezekiel, and a few others.

    The Enemies movement is clearly seen here. He has seduced a good majority of the Priesthood at the moment.  At least 2/3′s are there at this time. While Apocalypse states 1/3. So a third will return.  Now folks in the True Church, what do you do? Do you lose faith and lose Heaven? Or do you become saints?

    I choose to become a saint in the Great Hour to try the Whole World.  The whole world and not just the Church members.  Read carefully the Lord’s Words.

    Peace in the Name of Jesus and Mary. Faith Hope Charity.

  • amfortas

    Great. He takes all the right lines on ‘issues’. And journalists – including those on the Catholic Herald – see the faith in terms of issues and culture war. But is he a good pastor?

  • amfortas

    Traddie Catholics are PC now

  • Parasum

    “Chaput has also sternly called Catholics to adhere to Church teaching.
    In a recent address to a group of Catholic social workers, for instance,
    he insisted that Church-affiliated charities “have the duty to
    faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social
    justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues”.”

    ## Given the miserable failure of the bishops “to
    faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social
    justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues”, that is probably just as well. The bishops can play at being politicians, while the faithful live by values of the Gospel, and look after children, report predator priests, refuse to take episcopal thuggery dressed in the Lamb’s clothing, ignore episcopal exhiortations to treat members of the community as non-persons, etc.

    Commissar Chaput is the sort of person who is not needed over here, unless the idea is to destroy the Church or commit the Donatist hersy of looking for a “smaller, purer Church”. 

    Hope is very important. It does not including hoping for the Church of Christ to be transmogrified into an authoritarian monstrosity. God forbid. Jesus spoke and acted with Messianic authority – He did not mistake that for the authoritarianism the present Pope wishes the Church to exhibit.

  • Parasum

    the bishops = of the US bishops