While not the first, so far John Allen is among the most confident Internet voices asserting that the Vatican will announce the appointment of Archbishop Charles Chaput as the new head of the Philadelphia archdiocese tomorrow morning.
Allen reports that sources have confirmed that Chaput will replace Cardinal Justin Rigali, 73, who has served in Philadelphia since 2003 and who has been at the center of the U.S.’s most recent firestorm of clergy-sexual abuse allegations.
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. …
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.
Allen further reports that his sources indicate that Chaput’s appointment is “a highly personal choice by Pope Benedict,” and points out that in the last several years Chaput has been given two high-profile assignments from the Vatican: heading up the visitation of Australian Bishop William Morris’ Toowoomba diocese and serving on the visitation team reviewing the leadership and activities of the Legionaries of Christ.
Rocco Palmo’s post on the pending appointment came earlier in the day than Allen’s, and while more tentative, it was far more effusive:
…if multiple indications from near and far have it right, [Chaput] stands set to bring the most revolutionary change American Catholicism’s most traditional major outpost has known in at least a century, to begin its rebuilding from the ashes of the darkest hour in its long, storied history.
Palmo also has some interesting background information on the Denver archbishop, and predictions on how Chaput’s episcopal style might play in Philadelphia:
A member of the Potawatomi Prairie Band tribe, the archbishop’s Native American name is Pietasa (“rustling wind”) — a moniker that led his late mother to call him “Windy.” Accordingly, for an ecclesial model that’s stood as the nation’s oldest, most enduring clone of institution-centric, clericalist Catholicism in the spirit of its roots in 18th-century Ireland, the reported move would represent nothing short of a hurricane.
The son of a small-town funeral director, the high-octane choice — a veteran of leading two intense Apostolic Visitations — would ostensibly come armed with a mandate to significantly revamp a two-century-old ecclesial culture that’s been engulfed by the damning conclusions of the civil inquest and, just as much, by the eruptive aftermath it’s birthed on fronts ranging from the courts, budgets and pews to the all-important presbyterate….
Thomas Peters has some further analysis – “What it means if it’s Abp. Chaput to Philly”:
…for Pope Benedict, orthodoxy and courage are the two most-needed traits in bishops facing significant and tough assignments. Once again, Pope Benedict will have chosen a outspoken, faithful bishop who has personal experience with renewing the Church where it has fallen. Often these bishops come from religious orders.
Keep those eyes on News.va Tuesday morning!
UPDATE: Catholic News Agency confirms the appointment as well, and adds some information concerning Pope Benedict’s personal role in the pick:
On June 30, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops picked the name of a potential Philadelphia archbishop from a list of three candidates – known as a “terna” – to recommend to Pope Benedict.
However, after praying over the issue during the Fourth of July weekend, Pope Benedict decided not to select any of the recommended candidates, and specifically chose Archbishop Chaput for the post.
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