Giving full respect to the embargo, I’d like to speculate on what +Chaput’s appointment to Philly will mean for the Catholic Church in America. Left-wing Catholics unfriendly to +Chaput are already trying to flavor the narrative, and I don’t want their spin to become the first impression simply because no one else is occupying the airwaves.
First of all, I think a +Chaput appointment would be an unambiguously good thing. It raises his national profile and allows him to dispense his abundant pastoral gifts in a new archdiocese that is in profound need of healing and renewal. I’ve said time and time again that American Catholics should simply commit themselves to reading everything he writes.
Second, +Chaput’s appointment would send a clear signal (once again) to the Church about what sort of prelate Pope Benedict trusts with one of the most important American dioceses, as John Allen reports:
Speaking on background, sources told NCR that Chaput was a highly personal choice by Pope Benedict. Most insiders considered Chaput a long-shot for Philadelphia, regarding Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., a Pennsylvania native and a prelate with a reputation for brokering compromise, as the favorite.
Benedict, however, tapped Chaput, solidifying his profile as a papal favorite.
In recent years, Benedict turned to Chaput to handle two other sensitive assignments: Chaput was part of a team of bishops tasked with conducting a review of the Legionaries of Christ, and he was also entrusted with a visitation of the Toowoomba diocese in Australia under Bishop William Morris.
Here’s how I would put it: 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.
Next, we must pray for +Chaput –or whoever is appointed to Philly– because they will be laboring under a great cloud cast by more allegations of sexual abuse. The media and left-wing Catholics can be relied upon to delve into +Chaput’s past for any hint of misdeeds, and attempt to hang Philly’s sex abuse scandal around the new man’s neck. I believe, however, that +Chaput will see to it that justice is done to the victims, those who have been scandalized, and to the Church.
To those who live in Archbishop Chaput’s Archdiocese of Denver – be not afraid. I know how painful it will be if it turns out your beloved Archbishop is leaving, but I am sure that the Holy Spirit has a plan for you as well. In times such as these, we all must share the gifts we have received with the Church Universal.
Finally, for nostalgia purposes – here’s the interview I did with Abp. Chaput back in November 2008:
Part II of the interview can be viewed here.