And so it’s official: Today Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., has been named Archbishop of Philadelphia, replacing the retiring Archbishop Justin Rigali and assuming the reins in a troubled diocese which has been hard hit by the abuse scandal and—perhaps as a result—by declining participation in parishes.
Archbishop Chaput is, I believe, the ideal leader to help in the healing of that city. He has been a builder and an innovator: During his tenure as Archbishop of Denver, he founded St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, which is noted for its growth and its strength at a time when some seminaries are closing due to declining numbers. In response to the pastoral and educational needs of the growing Hispanic community in Colorado, he established Centro San Juan Diego. He later co-founded the national Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) and helped in the founding of ENDOW, a leadership initiative of Catholic women to “Educate on the Nature and Dignity of Women.” He was also instrumental in creating the Denver-based Augustine Institute, an independent, lay-run graduate school for the formation of lay Catholic leaders, catechists and evangelizers.
Archbishop Chaput’s clear, consistent teaching has been a breath of fresh air for the Church. He has authored two best-selling books: Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics (Servant, 2001) and Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (Doubleday, 2008).
In his address to the Canon Law Association of Slovakia, he called upon Catholics in America and Europe to resist the world’s intolerance of Christianity. Following is an excerpt from that address:
Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.
Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.
Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can
be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.
He continues, citing abortion as the great human rights violation of our era:
First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed.
Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.
Here’s another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.
May God bestow His choicest blessings on the Archbishop, as he assumes leadership in the City of Brotherly Love.