There’s some really good stuff in John Allen’s interview with Archbishop Charles Chaput (pronounced like “slap you”), the new Archbishop of Philadelphia. Enjoy the excerpts and go read the whole article!
On whether he is a conservative hard-liner:
I actually don’t see myself as a conservative at all. I try to be faithful to the church’s teaching, as the church has handed it on to us. I don’t feel that as a Christian or as a bishop I have a right to play with that tradition, which is the apostolic tradition of the church. I hope that I’m creative and contemporary, however, in applying that teaching and in the structural living out of it in the local church.
On social justice:
As far as the social justice question goes, I don’t think you can be an evangelist, or part of this evangelical movement in the church, without being as clearly committed to social justice as the church has been in the past. We can’t preach the Gospel and not live it. If we don’t love the poor, and do all we can to improve their lot, we’re going to go to Hell. It’s very clear from the gospels that we have the duty to do that. To be an evangelist means to preach that too, but it also means you don’t just preach that. There’s a clear difference between being a social worker and being a preacher of the Gospel. You can be a social worker without believing in God, but not a preacher. The Gospel calls all of us to be social workers, in a sense, but not all social workers are called to be evangelists.
I’m not especially clerical. Part of that is my Capuchin background. We’re not a clerical order, and we emphasize the importance of being brothers not only to one another but to the people around us, and even to the world of creation. St. Francis saw us as the ‘lesser brothers,’ and I really do think I’ve been formed by that. That’s probably perceived by people who see me as being rather non-clerical. Clerics are raised up by the church as a symbol for the presence of Christ, but we’re not supposed to be a distinct caste.
On the sexual abuse crisis:
We should have accountability for our actions in the church, and bishops should be as accountable as priests and laity. I’m sympathetic to the idea that there should be real consequences, with teeth, to acting contrary to the law of the land, the discipline of the church, or the moral law of God.
Do you think there are sufficient accountability provisions for bishops right now?
I’ll say something that many people in the church aren’t saying, which is that we ought to study this question and reflect on it very seriously. We should take up the issue of accountability, including accountability for bishops, in a formal, clear, and decisive kind of way.
Spiritually the problem is always the same, which is a lack of fidelity to the Gospel without excuse. I think the crisis is telling us that we had many excuses for not being faithful to the Gospel. I remember hearing people articulate those excuses, such as finding ‘new ways’ of being chaste. There’s only one way of being chaste, which is the one it’s always been. People would talk about ‘new ways’ of being celibate. Those were all silly discussions from the 1960s and 70s. It really was a confusing time for leadership. I’m sure glad I wasn’t in a position of leadership at that time, because I may have made some of the same foolish mistakes. Again, St. Francis calls us to embrace the Gospel fully, without excuses and without compromise, and that’s what I hope to do and to invite others to do.