Denver, Colorado’s loss is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s gain as pro-life stalwart and enthusiast Archbishop Charles Chaput has been selected by Pope Benedict XVI to replace Cardinal Justin Rigali as the head of one of the biggest Catholic areas of the nation.
The elevation of Chaput to the role allows the key pro-life advocate to exert ore influence in the Catholic hierarchy a the Catholic Church continues to lead the way on pro-life issues and confront pro-abortion groups and elected officials claiming the banner of the Church.
“I know other bishops would have been smarter than I am, or more talented, or more connected to Philadelphia’s past,” he said in a press conference this morning making the announcement. “But I do promise that no bishop will love the people and priests of this local Church more than I will. No bishop will give more of himself than I will.”
During the 2008 election, Chaput called pro-abortion President Barack Obama the “most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate … since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973” and he has written a book, Render Undo Caesar, laying out the case for how Catholics should tread the issue of abortion in public life.
In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Chaput laid out how he found out about the news: “I found out by a call from the Nuncio [Archbishop Pietro Sambi] on Tuesday, July 5, about 11:45 in the morning here in Denver. I was getting ready to go to a staff luncheon when he called and informed me that the Holy Father had asked that I serve the church as the Archbishop of Philadelphia. After talking with him for a while, and discussing what it meant, I said yes.”
In the interview, Chaput also talks about the controversial issue of communion and pro-abortion election officials.
“I think that people who make decisions contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in public ways, in matters of faith and morals, should decide for themselves not to receive communion. They’ve broken their communion with the church, and to receive communion means you’re in communion with the church. If you’re not, it’s hypocritical to receive communion,” he said of such elected officials.
“I think the best way to handle this is the way the bishops of the United States have agreed together to handle it, which is first of all to talk personally with those individuals who make decisions contrary to the teaching of the church. If they fully understand the teaching of the church and continue to act contrary to it, we should ask them not to receive communion,” Chaput said. “If they persistently decide to do so in a way that causes scandal, which means leading other people into the same kind of sin, then I think it’s necessary for the bishop to publicly say something.”
Chaput also said he was “very disappointed when the Catholic Health Association took a position that really undermined the authority of the bishops” when it come to the debate over abortion and health care.
He also condemned Notre Dame for its decision to award an honorary degree to Obama.
“When the bishops met in Denver in 2004, we made a decision that Catholic universities shouldn’t give honors to people who are actively engaged in promoting abortion. That has happened with the current administration, so it seems to me that it was inappropriate for Notre Dame to give the President an honorary doctorate,” he said. “I’m sure the President is a good man, and that he’s following his own conscience on the matter, but it isn’t the conscience of the church and he shouldn’t be honored because of that.”
Thomas Peters, a pro-life advocate who runs American papist and works with Catholic Vote, praised the move.
“First of all, I think a +Chaput appointment would be an unambiguously good thing,” he said. “It raises his national profile and allows him to dispense his abundant pastoral gifts in a new archdiocese that is in profound need of healing and renewal. I’ve said time and time again that American Catholics should simply commit themselves to reading everything he writes.”
“Second, +Chaput’s appointment would send a clear signal (once again) to the Church about what sort of prelate Pope Benedict trusts with one of the most important American dioceses,” Peters adds.