Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on vocations, elections, apostolic exhortations

Catholic World Report

Jim Graves

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., 72, was born in Concordia, Kansas, in 1944. He attended Catholic schools in the area before joining the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, St. Augustine Province, in 1965.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He served as a teacher and pastor an in a variety of roles in his community. He was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1988, and appointed Archbishop of Denver in 1997. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Philadelphia on July 19, 2011, and he was installed as the 13th bishop and ninth archbishop of Philadelphia on September 8, 2011.

Archbishop Chaput recently corresponded with CWR about a number of topics, including specific challenges in Philadelphia, current controversies over “Amoris Laetitia”, and the recent U.S. Presidential election.

CWR: You’ve now been in Philadelphia five years. What were some of the most pressing challenges you recognized, and how have you met those challenges?

Archbishop Chaput: Starting in 2003 the Church in Philadelphia weathered nearly a decade of very tough clergy-abuse related issues. We’re still dealing with the aftermath. To his credit, my predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, worked very hard to reach out to victims and restore confidence in the Church, but morale among our people and priests naturally suffered. There was a lot of confusion and anger. Rebuilding trust was a priority, and we’ve made some good progress. Philadelphia has a very faithful presbyterate, and I think that kept things together during the worst of the crisis.

The biggest surprise for me was the financial state of the archdiocese. It was very precarious, and our problems had nothing to do with paying lawyers or making abuse settlements. We were $300 million in debt. We had schools, ministries and parishes that had long since effectively died because of demographic changes, but we were keeping them open by covering their annual losses. And we’d been doing it for many years — with the best of intentions, but at massive cost. Putting our finances in order was painful for everybody. We’re still not entirely “there.” But again, we’ve made very good progress.

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