The Dispatch: More from CWR...

The model New Evangelization bishop

Archbishop Chaput has preached the truth about the dignity of human life and what makes for genuine beatitude, ignoring the epithets hurled at him by bears of little brain (and less integrity).

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia speaking in June 2017 at the USCCB's annual spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Out on the Kansas plains, he was just turning 21 when the Second Vatican Council promulgated its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and its Decree on the Pastoral Office of the Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus). So it’s unlikely that the Fathers of Vatican II had Charles Joseph Chaput in mind when they described the ideal diocesan bishop in the third millennium of Christian history — an evangelist, sanctifier, and governor who would accept those weighty responsibilities so that the Gospel might be proposed for the salvation of the world.

But, in God’s providence and through his own cooperation with grace, Archbishop Charles Chaput has lived the episcopal vocation the Council fathers limned in an exemplary way.

There is much talk of “collegiality” and “synodality” in some Catholic circles today; Archbishop Chaput has been a far more collaborative leader in Rapid City, Denver, and Philadelphia than many of those who talk that talk but walk a walk of episcopal autocracy. Then there is the now-familiar trope about bishops having “the smell of the sheep;” Archbishop Chaput, a true gentleman, is far more accessible and far more amenable to input, suggestions, and even correction from those under his authority than some, appointed to high office under that ovine pastoral rubric, who barely know a sheep or two, much less smell like them.

Young Charles Chaput joined the Capuchin Franciscans because he admired their commitment to poverty, simplicity of life, service, and education. And over his 31 years as a bishop, he has remained faithful to his Capuchin vocation. He lives simply, teaches thoughtfully, hears confessions regularly, celebrates the sacraments reverently, and is, by the testimony of many who have worked with him in three quite different dioceses, a spectacularly good boss — the best they’ve ever had. That’s one reason why serious young Catholic professionals have cued up to work with and for him wherever he has been assigned.

And he has courage, the cardinal virtue that makes living the other cardinal virtues possible. Where other bishops have been hesitant to be labeled “culture warriors,” Chaput has preached the truth about the dignity of human life and what makes for genuine beatitude, here and hereafter, in and out of season, ignoring the epithets hurled at him by bears of little brain (and less integrity). His penetrating analyses of what is demanded of serious Catholics in a hostile cultural environment have been spot-on, even as he has personally embodied the compassion and empathy that Christians must offer those wounded by that culture and its false promises of happiness.

Archbishop Charles Chaput is also a thoroughgoing churchman, a quality that reflects his deep life of prayer. He has consistently done what the Church has asked of him: first, by leaving religious life to accept the responsibilities of a bishop in rural South Dakota; then, by leaving Rapid City for Denver, where he built on the work of his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, to create the North Atlantic world’s model New Evangelization archdiocese; and, ultimately, by leaving Denver to rescue a crumbling archdiocese of Philadelphia and prepare a suitable welcome for Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families in 2015, both of which he did at no small personal cost.

It is more than ironic — it is deeply disturbing — that, as Archbishop Chaput marked his 75th birthday on September 26 and formally submitted his resignation as archbishop of Philadelphia, voices in Rome were heard saying, in so many words, that the Chaput project is over. What on earth could these voices mean? Archbishop Chaput’s work in Rapid City, Denver, and Philadelphia has been a glowing embodiment of the “Church permanently in mission” proclaimed by Pope Francis in what once seemed to be the programmatic document of his pontificate, Evangelii Gaudium [The Joy of the Gospel]. If the Chaput project is over, then Evangelii Gaudium and the Aparecida Document of the Latin American bishops that inspired it are dead letters.

An ugly and absurd cartoon of Catholicism in the United States — that we are a Church of rigid moralists and wealthy right-wing nuts — has infected Rome for several years. Archbishop Chaput has been a target of that viciousness. Those responsible for perpetrating the cartoon might remember that it was first peddled by Mr. Theodore McCarrick, who was never reluctant to trash Charles Chaput to anyone foolish enough to listen.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About George Weigel 428 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. If any mere layman peddled the kind of slander directed at Archbishop Chaput (and others) by voices in Rome, and on a media-global scale, we’d feel bound to think about the Eight Commandment and a sincere trip to the confessional before approaching the Blessed Sacrament. But, who are we to judge?

  2. Archbishop Chaput paid the price for taking his faith seriously. Some of Chaputs critics may never here the words ” My good and faithful servant”, but I believe the Archbishop of Philadelphia will.

  3. And the worst part? It’s not just Chaput who is being slandered…but Faith/Belief and what had been Catholic Morals…anyone who still “rigidly” believes.

    How far must we remain “polite” and “respectful” not just about heresy at the top but now “in writing” Amazon Synod pantheistic/nothing-unique-about-Christ-as Savior apostasy?

    How Bergoglio and his circle and Martin and the Jesuits can still regard themselves as “counter cultural” points towards something like a demonically inspired delusion.

  4. The error in this hagiographical work is that it still believes that bishops are the solution, when in fact bishops are the problem, the biggest obstacle to the “New Evangelization.”

    The fact that McCarrick was an episcopal enemy of Chaput is hardly consoling. Weigel likes to scratch the back of the powerful men like Chaput who have given him a platform.

    George Weigel and the conservative cheerleaders are still in denial about how much of the church is burning down.

    Suggestion for the title for GW’s next essay:

    “In The New Evangelization, The Bishops Are The Problem.”

    • Bravo, Peter Mitchell! Yes, indeed, “The Bishops Are The Problem”. Neo-Catholic hermeneutic-of-continuity normalizers like Hagiographer Weigel and Santo Subito Chaput are the cheerleaders that have enabled and are enabling Bergoglio, McCarrick, and Martin to deconstruct the Church while demanding politeness and respect and stigmatizing orthodox believers as rigid fundamentalists.

    • My thoughts exactly. That Bishop Chaput is looked at as the “ideal” bishop is a fairly damning critique of where we are. Certainly he is better – much, much better – than most. But he is also perfectly willing to jump aboard the modernist train when it suits him. Thus his support for the idiotic and indefensible statements regarding the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty.

    • Unlike some here, if George Weigel so lucidly observes the significance of Chaput’s resignation versus Vatican favoritism of Fr. James Martin, we should take note. And be afraid. But then, John Paul II, as well as Archbishop Chaput, are our witnesses to hope!

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. The model New Evangelization bishop -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.