Archbishop Charles Chaput says his first two years in Philadelphia witnessed “tough news,” but he encouraged his flock to continue renewal and to “shape the future with the message of Jesus Christ.”
“The future depends on what we do right now, and right now we need to be willing to continue the hard work of personal conversion and institutional reform that we’ve already begun,” the Philadelphia archbishop said in his Sept. 6 column for CatholicPhilly.com.
“There’s no other path to a vigorous and fruitful Catholic presence in Philadelphia in the decades ahead.”
Archbishop Chaput became head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Sept. 8, 2011, shortly before his 67th birthday.
His latest column reflected on the challenges faced by the archdiocese in recent years.
Philadelphia Catholics have witnessed the “suffering of abuse victims and their families” as well as two grand jury reports about sexually abusive clergy and the removal of priests from ministry. Church attendance has declined over the past decade and the archdiocese suffered the ill effects of both “well-intentioned but poor financial management” and “outright embezzlement.”
The archbishop said these problems had been compounded by “complacency, inertia and too little transparency and accountability at almost every level of Church life.”
These things are “painful to say and difficult to hear,” Archbishop Chaput said. However, they are worth remembering because “we’re on a different course now, a better one; and we’ve come a long way in a short time.”
“The past two years have seen difficult times. More challenges will surely come. But the people of this extraordinary Church … have been, and are, and will always be, the greatest gift from God in my life as a pastor.”
The archbishop urged “prudence and clear thinking” for renewing the archdiocese, warning of its “real and severe” financial needs.
“The future depends on our willingness to learn the right lessons from our history and apply them honestly to the new realities we face, here and now,” he added.
Archbishop Chaput said the 205-year-old Philadelphia archdiocese has “roots that go to the heart of the American Catholic experience and to the core of our nation’s best ideals.”
“And if God can use poor instruments like you and me to rekindle the fire of the Gospel in the churches of Philadelphia, then he can work that miracle anywhere. I want my life as a Christian to be part of that story; and again and again over the past two years, I’ve met good people in parishes across the archdiocese who want exactly the same.”
“Generations of Philadelphia Catholics proved their faith by their suffering, generosity and hard work. We need to recover that same kind of vigorous faith in our own lives – a zeal to renew the Church in the present, and to shape the future with the message of Jesus Christ.”