Archbishop Charles J. Chaput joined a distinguished group on April 12. It includes four cardinals, a bishop, two governors of Pennsylvania, a United States senator, a Pennsylvania chief justice, three university presidents and scores of Catholic lay leaders.
All were recipients of the Sourin Award, given annually since 1960 by Philadelphia’s Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute — popularly known as the Philo — and Archbishop Chaput was this year’s honoree.
He accepted the 2013 award from Philo President Thomas B. Byrnes at a dinner before 200 guests held at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.
In his acceptance speech it became clear that if you ask Archbishop Chaput a question he is not apt to sugar-coat the answer. Although he is happy to be Philadelphia’s Archbishop, he said his answer as to how he has enjoyed the past 19 months is, “I haven’t liked it at all.”
Quite honestly, “It has been an awful time,” he said. “We’ve had huge problems with the clergy which has been a great sadness to the Church, a great sadness for the priests and a great sadness for all of you here. I have had to make decisions about the future of their lives that have been extraordinarily difficult not only for them but for their families; their moms, their brothers and sisters.”
Coupled with this, he said, “I have had to close about 50 schools and will be closing parishes in the next couple of years in a way that will be disappointing to a lot of people. We have financial problems that are unimaginable.”
The Philadelphia archdiocese does have a distinguished history and Archbishop Chaput listed some of its past accomplishments, for example the home of two saints, an honor shared in America only by Hawaii. It had the largest Catholic school system in the country. It is home to a large number of Catholic colleges and universities. It still had more parishes (until recently) than Los Angeles, which is more than three times as large in Catholic population.
“This is an extraordinary place,” Archbishop Chaput said. “But things have changed immensely.”