Archbishop Chaput gives notice after tenure of culture war and consolidation

National Catholic Reporter

Sept. 25, 2019

By Peter Feuerherd

Little Logan Vincent, three months old, was the star at Mass Sept. 8 at St. Vincent de Paul Church in the Germantown section here.

To the sounds of a Gospel choir, to the ringing applause of a church three-quarters filled, and with his parents and godparents processing around the sanctuary with little Logan in his mother’s arms, greeted by kisses from the pews, this was no back-of-the-church, move along quickly ceremony. It was topped off by testimony from Christine Vincent, his mother, about the grueling ordeal that brought Logan into the world, including months for both mother and child in the hospital.

Logan is entering a church in transition.

After eight years, Archbishop Charles Chaput’s tenure as Philadelphia archbishop will soon end. He has already presented his resignation notice to Pope Francis, consistent with church law as he marks his 75th birthday on Sept. 26. Francis will either accept it or ask him to continue until a successor is named.

Logan is among the approximately 11,000 Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese who are expected to be baptized this year. That is in contrast to nearly 38,000 baptisms in 1961. Wracked by sex abuse and financial scandals, a once powerful church here has undergone painful consolidation and retrenchment. In comparison to past eras, far fewer Philadelphia Catholics are being baptized, married and buried in the church.

Philadelphia is feeling the effects of outside forces that have changed the landscape of the Catholic Church in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. In addition to the effects of scandal, the church has experienced a massive shift of populations not only away from urban centers but also to the areas of the South, the effects of smaller families and the general disaffiliation of young people from institutions, civil and religious.

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