January 25, 2020
by Jeremy Roebuck and Justine McDaniel
After back-to-back mass shootings one weekend last August prompted calls for stricter gun laws, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput publicly argued that “only a fool” would believe that gun control could deter such violence.
The people using the guns were to blame, twisted, he wrote in a pointed column, by society’s “culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms.”
But when a gunman killed one person and injured three at a California synagogue in April, Chaput’s designated successor, Cleveland Bishop Nelson J. Pérez, applied a softer approach. He condemned the “evil act of violence” and offered prayers for “those who were injured, loving care for the person who was killed, and comfort and consolation for their families.”
The tragedies that triggered their remarks may have little to do with meaty questions of church dogma, but the manner in which both men responded might help the region’s 1.3 million Catholics see a distinction between the outgoing archbishop and the man whom Pope Francis has named as his replacement.
That understated profile “actually says a lot about him,” said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, a scholar at the University of Notre Dame. “He’s not making hot-button issues his platform. He’s a moderate voice and who seems interested in building bridges instead of sewing divisions.”
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