For those who are interested in all things Roman, one of the major stories of the day is Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to move Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput out of the free-swinging West and into the oh-so clerical Northeast.
If you want to jump straight to the chase and get a full briefing on this, the justifiably omnipresent John J. Allen, Jr., of the National Catholic Reporter landed (naturally) the first in-depth interview with Chaput and it is a four-course meal, in terms of news content. This Catholic News Agency interview is also worth reading. Ditto for this Catholic Online Q&A with Sandro Magister.
This is a pretty straightforward news story to report. Chaput is in. Cardinal Justin Rigali is out, at a normal retirement age, while surrounded by another legal earthquake in the clergy-abuse scandals. Most newspapers would emphasize what is new, which is Chaput’s arrival.
However, something else is going on at the top of the New York Times daily on this event.
PHILADELPHIA – As Cardinal Justin Rigali stepped aside Tuesday to make way for his successor on the public stage, he barely mentioned the sexual-abuse scandal that has engulfed his eight-year tenure as head of the 1.5 million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Rigali, a longtime Vatican insider, described his departure as a move that was more or less pro forma. He had offered his resignation when he turned 75, as required, in April 2010. Pope Benedict XVI accepted it Tuesday morning, when he named Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver as Cardinal Rigali’s replacement.
The Vatican did not explain the move or mention the abuse scandal in its announcement Tuesday morning. And if Cardinal Rigali was alluding to it in his prepared remarks later, at a news conference here at the Archdiocese offices, he was sufficiently vague to leave doubt that he was talking about it at all.
“If I have offended anyone in any way,” he said, “I am deeply sorry. I apologize for any weaknesses on my part in representing Christ and his church worthily and effectively.”
Chaput then takes the podium and, readers are told, engages in some “jocular banter with reporters.” Then the story returns to the Rigali angle. The new archbishop is clearly not part of this event or, at least, of this story.
This is an interesting journalistic decision to say the least and I would love to know what, oh, Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia thinks of it.
One has to wonder if, in some way, this story was affected by the infamous clash between Chaput and the Times back in 2004, when the archbishop publicly argued that he had been radically quoted out of context in a discussion about his views on whether Catholic politicians who publicly oppose the teachings of their church on abortion should continue to receive Holy Communion.
Chaput then took an unusual, but cyber-logical, step. Since his staff had taped the interview, he posted a full transcript (.pdf) — showing the full texts of the questions from the Times and then his responses.
Many journalists were not amused and thought this was a hostile act. I thought this was a logical and responsible step, especially since I have for years been urging religious leaders to tape their face-to-face encounters with reporters and columnists (including me) if they believe the encounter might be hostile, complicated or both. Click here for a GetReligion flashback on that.
Those who followed that earlier drama were not surprised to learn, a few years later, that Chaput has decided to boycott the Times, when it comes to interviews. For an update on that icy standoff, click here for a post by our own Sarah Pulliam Bailey.
It would seem that this Times boycott continues (unless I have missed something) and that would appear to have shaped this Laurie Goodstein analysis piece about his move to Philadelphia. Wait a minute, there does not seem to be an analysis tag on this sidebar. Most strange.
As long-time GetReligion readers are aware, I have known Chaput since 1984 (new Scripps Howard column), back when he was a pastor and campus minister in Denver. Our paths have crossed (online and otherwise) through the years, especially after I left the newsroom and spent some time teaching mass media and popular culture in the context of a seminary.
The archbishop is also an enthusiastic GetReligion reader who has frequently gone out of his way to discuss the state of the religion-news beat with the professionals who walk it. This Pew Forum session is well worth revisiting. As is this full text of a Chaput address (“Religion, Journalism, and the New American Orthodoxy”) to the Religion Newswriters Association.
Now Chaput has moved to the Northeast corridor, just down I-95 from another pro-Vatican shepherd who has demonstrated a willingness to banter and battle with the press — New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
This could get interesting, journalistically speaking.
If Chaput were crazy enough to seek my advice, I would suggest that he grant the Times an interview in the very near future. A long, recorded interview — with recorders in operation on both sides.
Then the archbishop should have his staff post the transcript. Again.