Many top Vatican-watchers called it yesterday, but today the Vatican made it official – Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver will replace Cardinal Justin Rigali at the head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The 66 year-old Archbishop Chaput is part Native American and the first Native American U.S. archbishop. He entered the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor in 1965 and made his perpetual vows in 1968, receiving ordination to the priesthood in 1970. After a tenure as minister of the Capuchin province of Mid-America, he was elected bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota – a position in which he served for nearly a decade, before being called to Denver in 1997.
A best-selling author and outspoken defender of the Church’s place in public life, the newly-appointed Archbishop Chaput is also deeply concerned with the Church’s pastoral mission. “The Church has done a very poor job of passing on the authentic Apostolic faith to its people,” he says. “We need to get better,” at forming the lay faithful especially, “we need to get better very soon.”
At the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen has a lengthy, wide-ranging interview with Chaput, covering his Philadelphia appointment, his approach to his episcopal duties, Communion for pro-abortion politicians, gay marriage, and the clergy sex abuse scandals.
What’s your biggest fear about this job?
I suppose it would be my age. I’m entering this new ministry at a time when many in the world around me are retiring. I really hope I’ll have the energy and enthusiasm and physical strength to do everything that’s necessary to meet my responsibilities. I certainly think I do, or I wouldn’t have accepted the responsibility, but that’s a concern.
Other than that, I don’t think I really have any fears. I regret leaving my friends here. They’re an extraordinary group of people. …
A new CEO has two options in terms of existing staff. One is to bring in their own people right away, and the other is to keep everyone in place, making changes gradually through attrition. Which will be your approach in Philadelphia?
The church is different than a corporation. It’s a family, and I’m entering it. I can’t just replace the family, although I can bring different dimensions to family life. If I had to pick between the two models you outlined, it would be the second. I trust that Cardinal Rigali and those who have gone before me have established a community of people who are competent at what they do, and I start off believing that. You won’t see me coming in and making massive changes at the beginning. It would be foolish, and it can’t happen anyway, because it’s a family.
You’re not going to ride into Philadelphia on a bulldozer?
I certainly will not!
On a lighter note, are you prepared to become a Phillies fan?
I’m going to have to become a Phillies fan, and an Eagles fan, and everything else in Philadelphia. I genuinely mean that, because I think it’s important for the bishop to embrace the sports teams that his people embrace. But I want you to know that all the time I’ve been a Broncos fan, I’ve secretly been a Steelers fan … I hope that doesn’t get me into trouble in Philadelphia!