Chaput to Philadelphia

I do believe that Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia may have been first to break the news, but New Advent might have won by a nose.

And it’s big news, indeed — the beleaguered and hurting Philadelphia’s new bishop is Denver’s Charles Chaput:

Rocco — from whom I shamelessly cribbed the picture — writes:

He is brash, outspoken and fearless — energetic, colorful, cultured… indeed, even hard-core….

And if multiple indications from near and far have it right, he stands set to bring the most revolutionary change American Catholicism’s most traditional major outpost has known in at least a century, to begin its rebuilding from the ashes of the darkest hour in its long, storied history.

Chaput will certainly bring a frontiersman’s firm hand to the reins of an Archdiocese that is flailing and running more than a little scared. Like Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the 66 year-old Chaput is a Capuchin friar, but many would argue that they are confreres in everything but temperament.

And there is truth to that. Chaput is bound to make more conservative and traditional Catholics of Philadelphia happier than the more progressive, at least superficially, and already I’m getting emails from chums predicting that this appointment by Benedict will be “a disaster.” He’s all wrong for Philadelphia, they say. “My family is going to stroke out!” writes one.

No, they’re not. No one is going to jump from a ten-story building because Charles Chaput has been made their bishop. No one is going to have a stroke, eat their own liver, slit their wrists, keen a dirge or immolate themselves, either.

When did my co-religionists turn into such drama queens, and do they have no memory at all of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, of which the “experts” similarly expressed dismay, predicting that his papacy would be an absolute negative for the church?

And how did that turn out, exactly? Oh, wait. Benedict has ended up showing the deeply the pastoral side that none credited him with possessing in his previous position.

Maybe the Office calls forth those qualities in the man that none (perhaps he himself) did not realized he possessed. Maybe the Holy Spirit instructs the bishop who has enough humility to ask for the tutelage.

For crying out loud, the man hasn’t even arrived yet, and the doomsayers are predictably doing saying their doom; I think it is simply a habit, at this point — that some have become addicted to hysteria-porn, and must gratify it anything any news breaks that seems ripe for the picking.

Fr. James Martin, talking to Stephen Colbert about Pope Benedict’s visit to New York City in 2008, was big enough to admit that when Benedict XVI walked out on the papal balcony “I wanted to jump off my own balcony,” but he clearly has come around on the Holy Father. Michael Sean Winters, of the National Catholic Reporter wrote one of the biggest-hearted apologies I have ever read (and I wish I could find it, now) when he admitted that Benedict XVI was altogether more pastoral than he had ever expected him to be.

And it may be just so with Chaput. A good shepherd looks at the health of the flock and understands that if they have been scattered through injury and neglect they must be gathered and led to a tastier, more nutritious field. But he also knows that if they’re not strong enough to take the quickest path to it, he might have to bring them to it by a slower one that will be easier on them, more arduous for him, but ultimately best for them. That’s what pastoring is about. Why assume Chaput knows nothing of it?

To those who are harrumphing about a “bad fit” here, why not give Benedict XVI — who made this assignment — the benefit of a doubt you did not give him upon his election, and thereby demonstrate your growth in wisdom? Why not take a deep breath, forswear high drama and offer up a few prayers for a 66 year old man who is walking into a very difficult situation, where there is a great deal of healing to be addressed.

Why not assume the best, rather than the worst? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do, in Christian Charity?

Deacon Greg gives a lesson on How to pronounce Chaput, and why you’ll be hearing a lot about this.

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