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Denver archbishop Charles Chaput to replace Rigali in Philadelphia


Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, will be the next leader of the 1.5-million member Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Admirers and critics alike describe the outspoken Chaput, 66, as a politically attuned and emphatically conservative champion of Catholic values who will seek to reenergize Catholic identity here.

Chaput would succeed Cardinal Justin Rigali, who took the helm of the Philadelphia archdiocese in October 2003.

Although Rigali has been struggling since February with the Philadelphia grand jury report that excoriated the archdiocese for harboring sexually abusive priests, his retirement was long expected this year. He turned 75 in April 2010, the official retirement age for Catholic bishops.

Some Catholics said Monday it was appropriate that he move on.

“In light of all the charges and revelations from the investigations of abuse,” it is time “to have someone in there who can lead the church in a new direction,” said Nicholas Bisaccia of Philadelphia after attending 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

A Franciscan priest of the Capuchin order, Chaput (pronounced shap-you) was the first American Indian to become a Roman Catholic archbishop when he was named to Denver in 1997. His mother’s family belongs to the Potawatomi tribe, and he was made a member as a boy.

“I think that with Chaput you will see a much more politically active archbishop than we saw with Cardinal Rigali,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit magazine America and author of numerous books on the Catholic hierarchy.

Reese described Chaput as an “in-your-face” leader who is “going to be a real pain in the neck for the Democratic Party.”

Columnist and papal biographer George Weigel called Chaput a “great pastor” and predicted he would be a “real jolt of evangelical energy for the archdiocese.”

The Philadelphia archdiocese has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference for Tuesday, but would not confirm its purpose. Rigali is to celebrate Mass at the cathedral at 12:05.

While the sex abuse scandal here might have little to do with the timing of Rigali’s departure, it may have factored into Chaput’s appointment.

He is credited with responding quickly when Denver priests were accused of sexually abusing minors, according to Matthew Schmalz, an associate professor of religious studies at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts who studies the sexual abuse crisis in this country. Chaput “took a hard, traditionalist stand,” he said. [more]


Philadelphia Inquirer



  1. AMDG says:

    It’s difficult for us in the United States to fully understand how the Catholic Church ministers. It’s not meant to be a democracy. The Church is instituted by Christ that through His Spirit indwelling within it people can come to experience God’s love. Like Christ, whose love is pure and true, and who challenges all to be the reflection of His image as He created us, the Church calls us to transform our lives daily and be holy. It’s not easy to do and those in the hierarchy of the Church are subject to temptation like everyone else. The fall of some in the Church does not negate the mission of the Church nor dies it nullify the work of the Spirit within the Church – such is the grandeur of God. The Church will never be “progressive”, if progressive means adopting the ways of the world. Christ, through His Church, calls people to be counter-cultural, to make this world a holier place, while not being of this world. Christ, through His Church, does not validate our lifestyle if it’s one that keeps us from being holy. As we read in the Gospel, Christ called all to Himself and counseled them to change their ways and sin no more. Those who were obstinate in persisting in their lifestyle turned away from Him. What is of God and holy, and what is not, is not determined by man nor is it determined by the Church. It is not relative to whether we like it or not and whether it makes us feel uncomfortable. It was not subject to the whims of the first century, nor is it subject to the whims of the 21st century, nor will it be subject to the desires of any era. It is determined by God who is timeless, in whose image we are made. As hard as some may try, we cannot make God in our image. The Church, despite the sinfulness of those in the hierarchy and elsewhere, guides us in the way of holiness- such is the grandeur of God. That’s why the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. That’s why the Church has survived the many scandals throughout its 2000 year history, and why it will survive any others that may be in it’s future, in spite of those who long for its demise.

    Archbishop Chaput is one who recognizes that to lead the Church of Christ means to be vilified. He recognizes that the path to holiness, for Him and each of us, means to be God centered and selfless, and calls us to sacrifice. In resisting the lifting of the statute of limitations as proposed by some in the Colorado legislature, the archbishop is acting within our system of justice, which while not perfect is one of the best in the world, to keep from doing an injustice to any one institution or individual in an ill conceived attempt to administer justice. On the other hand, the archbishop has worked tirelessly to ensure, as best he can, that the under aged under his purview are safe from abuse.
    In his role as archbishop, he encourages all who receive Christ physically in Holy Communion to be in a state of grace, through repentance of anything that keeps us from being holy, as Christ through His Church calls us to holiness. Those who have not availed themselves of the Sacrament of Reconcilation and have committed grave offense against God, according to the teaching of Christ’s Church (this is not to be subjective), should refrain from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. This is not meant to be punitive – neither Christ nor the Church pushes anyone away. The individual has the opportunity to turn toward God at any point and transform his or her life. The Church is here to help.

    The spirit of Vatican II is very much alive in the Catholic Church of today. All one need do is read the documents of the Council to realize how Vatican II calls us to holiness, to love as Jesus loves in truth, to deny ourselves and live for others.

  2. Jim says:

    What a splendid appointment to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. To have one of the country’s premier, learned bishops to shepherd this large archdiocese is a great gift to the people of Philadelphia from God and from Pope Benedict XVI.

    How blessed you are. You will not be led astray. This shepherd will guard his sheep from ravenous wolves and guide them gently to the Truth with utmost care. Deo gratias.

  3. Deacon Holcombe Pryor says:

    Pope Benedict made a great assignment! I don’t envy the successor for Archbishop Chaput in Denver–those are big shoes to fill!

  4. GREG SMITH says:

    Archbishop Chaput may be just the man to fix the Archdiocise’s corporarte culture of tollerating priest sex offenders. However I am terribly disapointed in his pastrol failure in denying baptised Catholic children thier right to a Catholic education. May the Holy Sprit show him the error of his ways in the City of Brotherly Love.

  5. Tony says:

    Chaput in Philly, Dolan in NY, how conservative can we get? Uggh!!!!!!!!!
    Bye,bye “Spirit of Vatican II.”

    • Ann says:

      Pope Benedict is rapidly abandoning the vision of Vatican II with his appointments and policies. Sad and wrong.


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