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.”
“I spend all of my time trying to figure out how we are going to do the next thing,” he said. “I ask your patience.”
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.”
He pointed to the practice of faith, with Mass attendance hovering around 20 percent when it once was about 75 or 80 percent. The church and schools were built on the assumption that the high numbers would always be there.
“Things have changed,” he said. “The problems we have financially are not admitting we have to change. Not in terms of our values and enthusiasm but in terms of how we look at our structures. We can’t keep open parishes that are empty; we can’t keep schools that have only 80 kids in them, we just can’t.”
Change, he said, is going to be awkward and difficult, but “if we are going to be the Church that Jesus Christ wants us to be, we have to be different.”
The Archbishop reminded his audience that the early Church as established by Jesus had no buildings. The first Christians continued to worship at the Temple and synagogues until they were expelled and then the churches they built were very small. The Church, he said, “is not a building it is the people of God, all of us together.”
Dealing with all of these problems that have built up over the years is a distraction. “I spend all of my time trying to figure out how we are going to do the next thing,” he said. “I ask your patience.”
As an archdiocese, “we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I hope that when I turn 75 and the Pope says it is time to retire and get out of here you will have a reason to give me an award. You don’t have any yet. But we will do it together because I know you love the Lord and love His Church. Let’s do it together.”
Judging from the applause, it was apparent that the Philos have full confidence that Archbishop Chaput, in these last 19 months, has already earned that award and will continue to do so.
The Philo itself was begun in 1850 by Father Edward Sourin, who was at the time pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church and vicar general of the Diocese of Philadelphia.
Its initial purpose was to provide some education to young mostly Irish immigrants, but eventually it evolved into Philadelphia’s elite Catholic lay organization. But it has never forgotten its roots in education, which today takes the form of a scholarship program.
For more information, visit the website of the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute.
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The Archdiocese of Phila.might be on a better path than we think.
The excessive appearance of wealth being discarded is a good start.
The church cannot expect the people to pay for the horrible sins of the past.
We can however move forward if the laity feel the priesthood has rid
itself of layers and layers of lacking accountability to anyone, even God.
The theologians in English-speaking countries who interpreted the papers of Vatican II as authorizing artificial contraceptives and sex outside of marriage, and persisted in publishing and speaking that view even after Humanae Vitae was written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 must bear a major responsibility for many laity abandoning the practice of the Faith. “If God doesn’t care what I do about sex, maybe I don’t have to attend Sunday Mass and go to Confession (Penance) any more!”
The attitude above began influencing laity in the USA and Canada well before the info on priests abusing teenagers and kids became public.
St. John Neumann be with him. He is doing exactly what has been long overdue, it sounds like.
David – Compare the VII documents to those written prior. I think the lack of precision, which allows the former to be interpreted in an unorthodox manner, is astounding. I recently read about an item in L’Osservatore Romano in which Cardinal Kasper admitted that the ambiguous phrasing in the documents was by design (“time bombs” as the late Michael Davies referred to them).
Our Catholic hertiage has been stolen from us – and continues to be trampled – by people who want to make the Church into their own image. I believe the clergy abuse scandal is related, as Cardinal Burke pointed out that impurity is the fruit of disobedience.
We must turn back to the Faith, complete and inviolate as it was handed on to us from the Fathers.
Vatican II was not to blame. It was the pseudo council that came right after it, that is to blame. The hijacking of the Liturgy and the understanding of the faith and our sacred traditions as a whole. This still goes on in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia today. Please read these two articles by a local Byzantine Catholic priest. Than after you go to many of the parishes of Philadelphia and the you will see, the destruction still goes on, after 50 years. 50 years ago, seminaries were full. Now they are empty. Except those priestly orders, like the FSSP, ICKSP, etcc. Those who are traditional. Even the SSPX has more priests in seminaries than St Charles Borromeo Seminary.
It surprises me that very little is being said about the clergy sexual abuse scandals in Philadelphia where 37 priests who were sexual predators, were found to still be in active ministry. That knowledge alone is enough to empty the pews. Parents and grandparents want to protect their children and grandchildren from the risk of sexual abuse by priests. The betrayal of trust that occurs in the victim of clergy sexual abuse can cause lifelong damage. Until the Pope and bishops admit their roles in the cover-up and become accountable, why would many want to remain members of such a church that protects predator priests and revictimizes the victims of clergy sexual abuse?
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois
Dear Dr. McHugh
To answer your question of why someone would stay in the Church, it would be because of their love of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ and because that’s where you’d find Him. As Tim Staples likes to say, ‘you can’t leave Peter because of Judas’. Now I agree, those Bishops who participated in the cover-ups should do a very public Mea Culpa. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t base my involvement in or perception of the Church to be governed by my opinions; nor would any good Catholic.
Now, you say that the Pope needs to also come clean as to his involvement in the cover-ups. Did Pope Francis have a hand in the cover-ups? I ask because, well, I don’t know if he had. So you must have some evidence, some secret information of the Holy Fathers past that is not public knowledge in order to incriminate him here? I think we’d all be very interested in seeing it.
Yours in Christ
Mr. William Tudor Roberts of San Diego, California.
“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.””
No, those priests made those decisions for themselves. THEY chose to do sinful things. Don’t blame yourself or feel guilty. Those priests caused their own futures to go down the drain.
Archbishop Chaput is a wonderful gift to the Church in Philadelphia. Until we are willing and eager to
share our children in the clerical and religious state, churches will continue to close. My prayers are with
the good Archbishop.
Vatican II was the worst disaster for the Church in modern times. We should be doing penance in this 50th anniversary of the event which set such awful things in motion. It is absurd when people defend the council at all cost, always trying to use catch-phrases such as “renewal” and “new springtime”, while meanwhile only 20% of Catholic go to Mass and Catholic institutions are shutting down left and right. Are those some of the nebulous “fruits” of the Council? Shear madness!
I am from an Orthodox Jewish background, and became a Catholic via the Traditionalist movement in existence in the mid 1970s. I have never been a part of the post-Vatican II church, but have watched it from afar, vacillating between cringing and sadness for what could have been if not for Vatican II.
I thank God the Traditional movement existed, albeit in its fledgling stages in the 1970s. I would NEVER have been drawn to the Church if all I had to experience was the post-Vatican II pop culture, protestantized church…and I do not mean only seeming externals such as Latin in the liturgy but doctrinal deviations since then as well. There is absolutely nothing about the novus ordo church that would have drawn me as a Jew, esp. since the Tridentine Mass so resembles the ancient Jewish liturgy of the Bais HaMikdash (Temple). All the novus ordo looks like to me is a Lutheran worship service.
The defense of Vatican II is that it has been misinterpreted, hijacked by modernists, and improperly applied. Even if that’s true, and VII was in essence “good,” we must deal with all the negative results that have actually occurred in the Church in the last 50 years. No matter its intent, the results speak for themselves. But VII didn’t happen in a vacuum. There was a long, mostly overlooked precursor that is the real origin of today’s problems. Ignoring the intentional infiltration of Liberalism into the Church (particularly the seminaries) for several decades prior to VII, and ignoring the stated condemnations of Liberalism that the Church has made for over 150 years, is, maybe, to put too much blame on VII and what certainly seems like the resultant marriage of the Church to the world (not the first time that’s happened). What is needed now, as Chesterton said, is a bitter divorce and an unwavering demand for custody of the Church’s children.
Blaming Vatican II is like blaming Moses for the golden calf. Vatican II is the answer, not only to the tyranny of relativism that has captured the liberal catholic’s mind and heart, but also the the legalistic blindness of those who don’t recognize the Pope’s authority, are rejecting a legitimate council, and lingering in schism. Read Vatican II, read the Catechism, and read your Bible. Repent and reconcile so we can stand together.
Blaming Vatican 2 is not like blaming Moses for the golden calf. It is like blaming Aaron for the golden calf.
As a young Catholic, I’ve heard a lot of Vatican II hate over the years. I’m doing my research now, reading each of the Epistles and Constitutions promulgated by the Council. All I can say is that if they felt the need to affirm time and time again the importance of the Liturgy; the need for priests to study Liturgy in the seminary–because apparently they hadn’t; and the need for classes for converts, then it seems to me that there were things that needed fixing.
In fact, many of the problems people point to as having come out of Vatican II are things these documents say not to do. From what I can tell, most of the problems coming out of the Council center around a lack of education and a belief that Vatican II is some kind of a break with Church History–a mistake shared by many on both sides of the Vatican II fence.
The sudden super-star image of the pope hasn’t helped, nor has the de-emphasis on the bishops, who are the ones tasked with actual on the ground reform of any kind.
God bless Abp. Chaput, and all his works. The Church in America needs all bishops to be of such resolve. I shall keep him in my prayers.
“A huge problem with priests” is a cop-out! So easy to say! The few don’t spoil the many. The Archdiocese once again shows its belligerent attitude in continuing to treat the Sexual Abuse Scandal like it’s only a recent thing. It was a cover-up! Of course, they can never say so because of the pending law suits! Sad, truely: to consider of all those “others” in leadership during those days who knew what was going on, but did nothing!
So today, many priests and laity suffer again for these sins. And we are again asked to pay the price: both with our anguish, our sacrifices and penances, but also with our witness in a world that now doubts what once was so alive….and partly because some have mislead them.
Archbishop Chaput has my prayers and support. He is right about the decline in Mass attendance over the years. Why did this happen? The reasons are diverse, ranging from not evangelicizing to new residents as neighborhoods changed; changing the Mass and the music from Latin and sacred music, thinking that by becoming more Protestant in terms of style would lure non-Catholics (didn’t happen and it unfortunately, drove away a lot of devout Catholics to Orthodox and scism orders); not confronting the evangelical and mega churches’ anti-Catholic heresy with the truth; etc., etc., etc. What’s done is done and until the Church can undo all of the above, it has to pay its bills to continue to pay employees and maintain services and charity support. The lack of parishoners throughout the Diocese means that beautiful old (and big) churches like the late Immaculate Conception in Germantown can’t stay open with just a handful of people showing up on Sunday. This trend can be stopped if all of us reach out to our fellow CAtholics who have fallen away. Don’t judge them but by your example and prayers, you will help bring them back home to the Catholic Church. Same for our Protestant family members and friends: they have Faith but not the true faith that Jesus Himself established in His Catholic Church. Pray for them, answer their questions with honesty and with loving patience, we can have more members come into the Church at the next Easter Vigil.