The news across the Catholic blogosphere today is Archbishop Chaput’s new assignment to Philadelphia to replace retiring Cardinal Rigali. Traditionally, the archbishop of Philadelphia has been a Cardinal, so this move is seen as an imminent elevation for the archbishop – one that is long overdue.
I lived in Denver until the beginning of this year, still visit there frequently, and hope to move back soon. I can say this is sad news for the Denver church. Archbishop Chaput is an amazing man. He welcomed me into the church in 2005 during the Rite of Election. Last year, he granted me a private meeting, during which I received his blessing, and I have been able to exchange correspondence with him.
Whispers in the Loggia describes Archbishop Chaput as “brash, outspoken and fearless — energetic, colorful, cultured… indeed, even hard-core….” I agree with all of those except for the first, he is not brash. Yes, he is unapologetic in being an orthodox bishop. He stands for Catholic faith, but does so in a gentle way. His statements are always measured and thoughtful. He is not unnecessarily confrontational. Yes, he is “pastoral.” Then again, no one thinks a response is gentle when that response opposes one’s own beliefs. No matter how gentle he is, the pro-abortion, and gay lobby will call him “mean.” He has taken unpopular positions and is criticized by both conservatives and liberals.
Still, no other bishop has been more open in reforming the Church in the aftermath of the priest abuse scandal. It is no wonder the Pope is rumored to have picked Archbishop Chaput over the candidates he was offered. He is the right man for the situation in Philadelphia where his biggest challenge will be to heal that church in the wake of a renewed abuse scandal.
But there is more to Archbishop Chaput than that. The Catholic Church of Northern Colorado (the archdiocese of Denver) is growing. The growth of vocations continues as well. Last year, the archdiocese had to expand the St. John Vianney Seminary, which is located on the same campus as the archdiocese’s headquarters. Thanks to his leadership, the church in Denver is healthy.
Archbishop Chaput has the heart of a shepherd. Anyone who claims he is aloof has simply not met him. He is approachable by anyone. I’ve seen him greeting people for about an hour at the front doors of the basilica after mass to greet anyone who desires to meet him. He didn’t leave until everyone had the opportunity.
Philadelphia, Denver’s loss is your gain. You are about to be blessed more than you know.