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Archbishop Chaput is an inspiring example for his priests and faithful

He has sold his £6m residence and is living among students at St Charles Borromeo seminary. Lay members of the Church need men like him

By on Thursday, 20 September 2012

Archbishop Chaput at a press conference (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Chaput at a press conference (Photo: CNS)

Having given up on the idea of clearing on top of my desk, I decided to clear underneath it – and have unearthed the Herald Christmas issue of 2011. Starting to re-read it I came across Mary O’Regan’s article on “Ten amazing Catholics of the year”. They include Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, whose motto is: “My task is to announce the Gospel.” I also learnt that “a firm advocate of the rosary, he often prays this prayer for the priests of his diocese… and makes them aware that he does so. Renewal and support for the priesthood is a motif of Bishop Davies’s preaching and actions.” He sounds spot on.

From Bishop Davies I went on to read a notice in the current edition of the Herald, about the sale of the residence of the Archbishops of Philadelphia to the local Catholic university for the equivalent of £6m. Archbishop Charles Chaput, the present incumbent, will live at his diocesan seminary, St Charles Borromeo. For a bishop or archbishop to live among his student priests sounds a great idea, especially when the archbishop is Charles Chaput; the seminarians will have a concrete example on their own doorstep of how the pastor of their diocese lives a life consecrated to Christ and the local church.

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter (and the liberal Catholic journalist I like most) has recently interviewed Archbishop Chaput. The more I read about him the more I am drawn to his practical holiness and his refusal to let himself be bogged down by administration at the expense of evangelisation. Like Bishop Davies he knows his task is to announce the Gospel – despite taking on a huge archdiocese with considerable financial problems. That’s why he is selling the official residence: “It’s an expensive house to keep when you don’t need it,” he told Allen.

The archbishop has come under strong criticism in his archdiocese for seeking to close or amalgamate some of the Catholic schools. But as he points out, the numbers of Catholic students have fallen hugely from the Church’s hey-day, when there were 267,000 pupils: “Now we have around 60,000.” Some of this is due to the fact that “people aren’t having children as they used to, and people aren’t willing to sacrifice to pay the tuition as they did in the past.” It sounds a familiar story.

On the forthcoming presidential election, Chaput informed Allen that he is registered as an independent: “As an individual and a voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances and wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom.” He is clearly not a Democrat then. Chaput also does not equate Christianity with socialist politics. “Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of [the poor] or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. These are prudential judgements… You can’t say somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation.” In case you might think he is hard-hearted, a very similar debate is going on over here: is massive government welfare payments, paid for from taxes, a sign of compassion or do they simply keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty? According to Philip Johnson in an article entitled “The welfare state is broken – what next?” in yesterday’s Telegraph, “support for more state spending on social benefits has halved, from a peak of 63% nine years ago, to just 31%”.

Like Bishop Davies, the archbishop wants to be focused on “mission rather than maintenance”; he is acutely aware that the latter, given the problems he has inherited, at present takes up too much of his time. He would rather be “an evangelist than a bureaucrat and has absolutely no wish for an eventual curial appointment in Rome”. “Diocesan leadership” is his vocation, as he told Allen.

He sounds inspiring – and we lay members of the Church long to be inspired by the example of men such as him.

  • Br Paschal Burlinson

    As a fellow Capuchin, I sympathise with Archbishop Chaput whose  principle vocation as a friar is to spread the Gospel. When a fellow Dominican was made a bishop,  his Provincial wrote to him and said he would prefer to see him dead and sitting in a coffin rather an an episcaple chair since he could no longer travel and preach and practice poverty as St Dominic wanted.  My brother Charles Chaput seems to have solved the problem of being a good friar and a good bishop.  Fr Paschal Great Britain.

  • john

    Bishop Mark Davis. Three times I’ve met him praying and preaching the Rosary

  • kentgeordie

    Next pope?

  • Peter

    Archbishop Chaput has hit the nail on the head as far as being a Christian is concerned.

    In one of his sermons he said: 

    “If we ignore the poor we go to hell.  If we ignore the poor – I don’t mean actively do harm to the poor but simply ignore the poor – what’s going to happen to us?  We will go to hell”  (Denver Sept 2004)

    The Church is collapsing in the the West because it has lost the basic message of what being a Christian is all about.  It is not about the self-preservation of parishes and institutions, it is about self-sacrifice for the poor.  The Church is failing to get this message out to the wider community.

    In a recent interview he warned against worldly attitudes in the Church in rich countries – towards material self-preservation at the expense of the poor – which made the Church “worse than the world”.

    I can say from my own experience how right he is!

  • awkwardcustomer

    What about spiritual poverty?  Are you yourself not in danger of becoming worldly by concentrating only on material poverty?

    You claim that being a Christian is all about ‘self-sacrificing for the poor’.  Surely being a Christian is all about self-sacrificing for Christ, with one of the fruits of this sacrifice being help and concern for the poor. 

    Are you not also in danger of sounding like Judas Iscariot when he complained about the expensive oil being used to annoint Christ’s feet, claiming that it could have been sold to help the poor?  (John 12:1-8)

    We know that Judas Iscariot had ulterior motives for his complaint.  But what did Christ reply?  ‘For the poor always you have with you.’  This fact did not prevent Christ from establishing His Church for the salvation of souls, the souls of the poor and the rich.  The Church is collapsing in the West, not for the reasons you give, but because self-sacrificing for Christ has been sidelined in favour of cosying up to the world and atttempting to turn Catholics into social workers. 

    Archbishop Chaput is selling off his residence, part of the Church’s patrimony, for $6million to pay off the debts of a nearly bankrupt diocese. Whatever spin Francis Phillips puts on this, the question remains. Is this not the result of a spiritual bankruptcy far worse than anything material?

  • Peter

    CCC1033 says:

    “Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him of we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren”
    The serious needs of the poor are life and death needs such as food and drink, shelter and medicine.  These are the priority so long as they exist in our world.

    The sacraments are crucial in allowing one to see the face of Christ in the poorest and to love them.  To love the poorest means to help them unconditionally, otherwise one becomes a mere humanist whose help is conditional upon man-made agendas. 

    Christ equates himself to the poorest, so that loving and helping the poorest is loving and helping Christ himself.  

  • JabbaPapa

    OK, but that’s not “If *I* ignore the poor … what’s going to happen to *me* ?  *I* will go to

    I’m dirt poor myself, and I’m living with many other dirt poor, so that ignoring the poor is pure and simple impossible for me.

    The clue is in the plural.

    Those of us who are called, individually, to either be with or work with or work for the poor should follow that vocation, and we should help them, however we can.

    But Liberation Theology, for instance, is non-Catholic, because it places such political concerns before our more deeply spiritual ones.

    Our first concern must always be the love and the worship of God ; the love for our fellow creatures is conditioned and provided by this first concern — but if we get it the wrong way round, then that’s not Christian at all.

    A vocation is hard to discern, but if you feel a strong longing to help the poorest among us, then that is what should be followed.

    The vocations of a mother, a deacon, a theologian, a canon lawyer will obviously reside elsewhere.

  • nytor

    The Sacred College won’t elect an American because of the state of the Church there, and frankly as there are quite enough powerful Americans around already I am not sorry about that, whatever the merits of this particular example.

  • nytor

    To Liverpool, please God, to revoke the lay funeral minister arrangements. Go on, Congregation for Bishops, go on.

  • Peter

    You can’t be that poor if you can afford a computer.

    But, seriously, what I am talking about is love of Christ which must, as you say, be our first concern.

    Jesus explicitly said that what you do to one of the poorest you do to him.

    To love Christ therefore means to love the poorest.

    Love manifests itself in actions not words, and therefore to love the poorest means to help them.  

    By helping the poorest we are expressing our love of Christ.

    This is not discretionary.  We are commanded to love God and to prove it by loving and helpin our neighbour in greatest need who is the least of Christ’s brothers.

  • paulpriest

     No – to Westminster – send the scouse archbishop back home to his own…

  • Benedict Carter

    We are saved by faith and good works, all enabled by prayer and the Sacraments. 

    I would therefore take issue with your, ” … what being a Christian is all about … it is about self-sacrifice for the poor”. 

    Being a Catholic most certainly INCLUDES this and good works are the fruit of a real faith, but no, “self-sacrifice for the poor” is NOT the fundamental definition of what is a Catholic (or Christian, the two words are synonyms in my opinion). 

    “Love of God and obedience to all ten of the Commandments” is the fundamental prerequisite for being a Christian. This is the base upon which all else is built.

  • Benedict Carter

    Agreed. The Church in America is in a shocking state. 

    I would like to see a certain Swiss Bishop elected: he is currently head of a Priestly Fraternity based in Econe.

  • Benedict Carter


  • Peter

    The greatest Commandments are to love God and love one’s neighbour.
    Jesus equated help for one’s neighour who is most in need (the least of his brothers) with help for him.

    Inasmuch as helping one’s neighbour most in need is an expression of love for that neighbour, such action is a manifestation of love of Christ himself.

    In this respect both Commandments are combined and fulfilled.

  • nytor

    Ha, I’d settle for his getting a red hat. Frankly, if the SSPX do reconcile and become a personal prelature in due course then he ought to get one. Won’t though – the liberals would be apoplectic.

  • nytor

    I’d like to see a decent incumbent in Westminster, but arguably Liverpool is more in need of a decent bishop after Worlock and Kelly…

  • paulpriest

     We’re talking about our future Cardinal here – and at present in these fair isles the only one in our episcopacy experienced, wise and capable of that Red Hat is in Shrewsbury…

    Get +Vin out of Westminster!
    Get +Davies in!

  • JabbaPapa

    You can’t be that poor if you can afford a computer.

    I can’t — but I build computers, so that I can have one anyway, currently built out of spare parts ranging in age from about 2004 to 2012.

    Any more impertinent remarks ?

  • Sweetjae

    The last sentence was very judgmental to the good Bishop Chaput to which I have admired highly for his humility, faithfullness to the teachings of the Church and vigor to defend it against gay marriage, abortion etc and his relentless pursuing of abuses by liberal wing. The problem with people with ‘traditionalist’ mentality is of disobedience, pride and always suspicious of other people who don’t share their elucidation of tradition.

  • Sweetjae

    Amen, i always admire Bishop Chaput, a true priest of the Church!

  • Sweetjae

    I would love to! But tell them first to reconcile and be obedient to the Holy Father and the Church.

  • Sweetjae

    Actually the church in America is less shocking than the one in Europe particularly U.K. and France.

  • awkwardcustomer

    My last sentence did not refer specifically to Archbishop Chaput, since he obviously cannot be held responsible for the debts already accrued by his new diocese.  I was therefore not suggesting spiritual bankruptcy on the part of Archbishop Chaput.  My last paragraph may have refered specifically to the selling off of the Archbishop’s residence, but the preceding paragraphs addressed the subject of the Church in the West as a whole. 

    Sorry if you read this the wrong way, thereby makiing yourself angry and causing you to resort to insults. 

  • AnthonyPatrick

     A bit worried by your throw-away comment, paulpriest, which (unintentionally, I hope) smacks of the heavily mediated anti-Liverpudlian default-mode encouraged by some politicians and so-called comedians in the UK since the ‘eighties. 

    Have you slept through the Hillsborough exposure of endemic prejudicial
    injustice against ordinary, mostly working-class, fellow-citizens?  I am no fan of Archbishop Kelly myself, but what exactly do you mean by the label “scouse” and “his own”?

    Disparaging “scousers”  would seem to be one of the few blatant prejudices people are still allowed to get away with (along with anti-Catholicism, of course) in this green and pleasant land of mythical legitimate Englishness. 

  • paulpriest

     If I didn’t have Liverpudlian best-friends or if I hadn’t lived in Liverpool I would now be presuming you were being hypersensitive to the point of paranoid apophenia…

    +Vin is a product of the +Worlockian/Easter people nightmare…

    Let him inherit the whirlwind.

  • Al Girling

    “send the scouse archbishop back home to his own” don’t you mean Morecambe!

  • Lewispbuckingham

    Í have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage”.
    The same sex marriage debate ended two days ago with overwhelming rejection by both houses of federal parliament in Australia. There is also a move to curtail ‘sit down money” and ask people to retrain.
     Our society has not ended because of it.
     Archbishop Chaput would appear to be ahead of the times.

  • James

    Yes, it disturbs me there are people out there who call themselves Catholics yet go around making such judgmental comments….How do you even know he owns the computer from which he is using to access the internet?  He could be using an internet cafe, which are fairly prevalent in much of the developing world, or even just using a computer belonging to a friend/relative….It seems that “Peter” has been making quite a few disparaging comments on here, where is your sense of charity?  Particularly unfortunate in that your patron saint was the rock on which the Church was founded..

  • NewMeena

    RC Archbishop Chaput:  “If we ignore the poor we go to hell.  If we ignore the poor – I don’t mean actively do harm to the poor but simply ignore the poor – what’s going to happen to us?  We will go to hell”  (Denver Sept 2004)

    And Peter’s comment: “The Church is collapsing in the the West because it has lost the basic message of what being a Christian is all about. ”

    If this is really what being a Catholic/Christian actually “is all about” then I think I might consider instruction in the Church’s teachings.   But is it?   I doubt it!

    Although we (as a couple) do donate each month to charities (inc. a Catholic one) we don’t do anything like enough – and feel semi-constant guilt about this. But we also feel duty to our own children, who are having a hard time in the current economic situation – who we put first.

  • Peter

    Calling oneself “dirt poor” sort of hits the nail on the head with respect to what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about the Church identifying who are the “least of Christ’s brothers”, because they have the priority for help and assistance as commanded by Christ.

    They are truly the dirt poor – those who do not have enough to eat, nor clean water to drink, nor shoes, nor basic medicine.  

    Those who die in their millions every year and who suffer in their tens of millions every day.  These are truly the dirt poor.

  • Peter

    To be a Christian is to love God and love your neighbour.

    Jesus has given us a special responsibility to help the least of our neighbours who are the least of his brothers and sisters.  He has identified himself personally with them and therefore in helping them you help him, in loving them you love him.

    One cannot love Jesus by words alone, but by actions.  

    God became man so that he could identify with the poorest, the least of his brothers and sisters, so that by expressing our love for them, through our actions on their behalf, we express our love for him.

    We prove that we love Jesus through our help for the poorest.

  • Mary Cunningham

    sounds quite racist-is Liverpool a different country?

  • Alc246

    I have never met Archbishop Chaput but he is a hihghly inspiring man. I first came to see him when I caught a youtube video of his sermon to the Knights of Columbus in Denver. He is also on Witness on youtube under the Canadian Salt and LIght Television documentaries.

    I have also followed some of his homilies on youtube. There is one from a Mass to disabled persons which he said includes all of us. His press conference when he was made Archbishop is also worth watching for his answers to some tough questioning.

    A rather down to earth pastor 

  • AnthonyPatrick

    Thanks, paulpriest, I appreciate the clarification.

    P.s. Sensitive? Mutatis mutandis: who wouldn’t be?

    God bless.  

  • JessicaHof

    Sounds the sort of leader the Church needs.

  • JabbaPapa

    Come back to me with your objectionable pontificating AFTER you have been through the experience of not having enough to eat.

    When you will have been forced to search in rubbish bins for food, then perhaps you can start blaming others for their insufficiency of poverty.

    Otherwise, well, just shut the F up, thanks.

  • Sweetjae

    Ok your comments are noted however, since Christ is not around today like in the time of Judas, Jesus commanded and warned us in Matthew 28-37, that, “whatever you DID to the least of my brothers, you DID it to Me!”, and those who don’t are cast into HELL, which clearly shows that whatever love we have for Christ MUST BE DONE AND SHOWN to the poorest of us, how can you show your love for Christ that we don’t see and touch if we can’t even show love and care for the ones we can see and touch? And being bogged down by the flawed interpretation of tradition?

  • awkwardcustomer

    Fine.  After re-reading that last sentence of mine above, I can see how it could have been misinterpreted. And thank you for the Gospel message, which you seem to assume I ignore, since I am ‘bogged down by the flawed interpretation of tradition’, as you put it. 

    You also seem to assume that because I am a Traditionalist, I ignore the poor, the homeless, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the distressed, and those who suffer around me on a daily basis, not to mention the widows, the fatherless, the prisoners etc? 

    And you seem to assume that none of these are close friends of mine. And that I myself do not fit into one or more of the above groups.  

    Earlier on you accused me of being judgemental.  Remember, whenever you point the finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at YOU.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘I might consider instruction in the Church’s teachings’
     You are doing very well just being here.

  • Cjkeeffe

    Interesting where bishops believe and teeach teh teachings of teh church they have vocations – where they don’t well they don’t. Simples