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Archbishop Chaput: Some Catholic bishops were “too compliant” with pandemic restrictions

Chaput Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia speaks to members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Region III during their �ad Limina Apostolorum� visit, at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, on Nov. 27, 2019./ Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia last week said that some Catholic bishops were “too compliant” with state and local restrictions on churches during the recent pandemic.

“If you don’t reach out to people who are lonely and suffering and dying in a time like the pandemic, then you’re not being the Church, and that’s very, very bad for everyone involved,” retired Archbishop Charles Chaput said last Friday on Fox News' streaming service, Fox Nation. 

Chaput was interviewed by Tucker Carlson last Friday on his new book Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living. He said that some Church leaders fought to keep their churches open amid state and local pandemic restrictions, but added that other Catholic bishops were “too compliant.”

The archbishop said that he was sympathetic to the situation of bishops and other Church leaders, because it is an essential part of Christianity to be “cooperative” in order to serve the common good.

“But as time went on and leaders saw the effect of this on their churches, it seems to me they should have been more insistent on being available to the people who needed their care,” he said in the May 28 interview. 

Chaput, who retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia last year, authored his new book which was published on March 16, 2021 by Henry Holt and Co. 

In a March interview with CNA, he explained that his book focuses on death as a key to living a good life. 

“What we’re willing to die for reveals what we’re willing to live for, the things we really hold as sacred -- not just with our words, but with our hearts,” he told CNA. He said that “a good death can only be had as the fruit of a good life, a life lived with integrity and right purpose.”

Chaput served as Archbishop of Philadelphia for more than eight years, and before that, served for 14 years as Archbishop of Denver. He was born in Kansas in 1944, entered the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1965, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. Chaput was ordained bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota in 1988, before being appointed to the Denver archdiocese in 1997.

He is only the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe.

Chaput’s interview on Tucker Carlson Today covered topics related to his book, including life, death, the pandemic, and his own childhood. 

While discussing his upbringing near a funeral home - Chaput’s father was a mortician - he mentioned that one consequence of cremation can be a lack of reflection on death and the meaning of life. “When the body is not present there is much less reverence to death,” he said. 

Responding to those who avoid thinking about death, Chaput said, “it probably makes people more anxious to think about dying and that’s why they pretend they’re not going to die.”

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“They don’t want to think about what happens after this life,” he said.

When asked about pandemic-related restrictions of the last year, Chaput responded that “It’s inhuman to wear a mask and to be isolated,” while noting that masks are “a necessary thing to a certain point.”

Regarding the effect that church closures and the suspension of public Masses may have had on the faithful, he said, “We’re beginning to discover that many people discovered that they don’t need to go to church,” adding, “but they did not feel any different not going than when they went.”

Carlson asked Chaput if he thought political leaders used the pandemic to undermine Christianity, by putting harsher restrictions on churches than other establishments.

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“I don’t know that these political leaders deliberately set about to destroy the Church. But it’s obvious that they didn’t think church attendance was very important or otherwise they wouldn’t have done that,” Chaput said.

Naming marijuana dispensaries as an example of an industry which received more favorable treatment than churches, Chaput said that when bishops realized their churches were being treated worse than other segments of society, they should have fought for equal treatment.

Carlson asked Chaput about his early activism within the Democratic Party, namely his participation in the campaigns of Bobby Kennedy and former President Jimmy Carter.

Chaput said that his work on both campaigns was motivated by his desire to see moral men in positions of political power.

“As I got older I began to see that there was no integrity in the Democrat party in terms of the values that were really important to me, and oftentimes not in the Republican party either,” he said.

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