Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver said that true reform of the Church requires deep faith and repentance from all members of the faith, including clergy, religious and laity alike.
“Renewal begins not in vilifying others, but in examining ourselves honestly, repenting of our own sins, and changing ourselves,” the archbishop said.
“We are all in need of God's mercy. When we really understand that, we can speak to each other with both honesty and love, and restoring the mission of the Church can begin.”
Archbishop Chaput, who was recently appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, made his remarks at the Knight of Columbus' 129th annual convention, this year held in downtown Denver, Colo. from Aug. 2-4.
The opening Mass at the Sheraton Hotel on Aug. 2 – packed to the brim with knights in colorful regalia and their families – was also concelebrated by 10 cardinals, 70 archbishops and bishops and more than 100 priests.
During his homily, Archbishop Chaput underscored that along with repentance, the “second thing needed for any lasting Church reform” is faith.
“Not faith as theology, or faith as a collection of doctrines and practices, but faith as a single minded confidence in God,” and faith, “as the imprudence, the passion, the recklessness to give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ,” he said.
“That kind of faith changes people. That kind of faith shifts the world on its axis because nothing can stand against it.”
Archbishop Chaput also urged respect and recognition for all vocations within the Church, saying that each are different but have their essential roles.
“The Church belongs to Jesus Christ, and the different roles within the Christian community – clergy, laity and religious life – have equal dignity but different purposes.”
In particular, the clergy's leadership in the Church should always be marked with humility and service “and never by a sense of entitlement,” he said. “Bishops, priests and deacons are too often weak and sinful. They need to be held to high standards. Some deserve to be chastised.”
“But men and women didn't found the Church, they don't own her, and they have no license to reinvent her.”
Although sin and failure “need to be named,” he said, “when people deride their bishops and priests out of pride and resentment or some perverse desire for what they perceive as 'power,' they undermine the Church herself, and they set themselves against the God whose vessel she is.”
Citing the example of St. Peter in the Gospel, when Christ invites him to walk out on to the water, Archbishop Chaput said that “as long as Peter keeps his eyes and his heart fixed on Jesus Christ, he can do the impossible.”
But the “moment he gives into doubt and fear, he begins to sink. So it is with our personal faith and so it is with the life and health of the Church.”
The Knights of Columbus convention in Denver this week brings together 500 delegates – including 85 bishops – from the global, 1.8 million member organization.