Archbishop Chaput urges 'deep changes' in Philadelphia archdiocese

Archbishop Charles J Chaput at a press conference on abuse cases in Philadelphia May 4 2012 CNA US Catholic News 5 4 12 Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. (File Photo)

Celebrating the first anniversary of his role as head of the Philadelphia archdiocese, Archbishop Charles J. Archbishop Chaput is calling for "deep changes" in how the local Church thinks, behaves, and is organized.

"We can no longer allow ourselves the complacency of the past. 'The way things have always been' needs to become 'the way things need to be' if we have any hope of preaching Jesus Christ to the world around us," Archbishop Chaput writes, signaling the ongoing reformation of his archdiocese.

"The task of renewal will require deep changes in the thinking, behaviors, structures, procedures and organizational life of the archdiocese," he says in a Sept. 8 letter to the faithful of the archdiocese.

After opening with thanks to his people for their kindness to him and their faithfulness to Christ, Archbishop Chaput responds to the confusion and anger of many, which he acknowledges as warranted.

Archbishop Chaput says he looks forward to getting to know the archdiocese better in the future, because though he has enjoyed the time he has spent with his people there, the archdiocese is too large to have exhausted its riches in a year.

The archdiocese has been profoundly affected by a sexual abuse scandal since 2005 and has had serious budget problems in recent years. The archdiocese faces a projected deficit of $6 million for the 2012 fiscal year.

In addition, many of the parishes in the archdiocese are struggling. "Many of those parishes simply can't be sustained," Archbishop Chaput says in his letter, pointing to the possibility of further parish closings and mergers.

But Archbishop Chaput assures his people that he and archdiocesan official can and will be able to fix the budget problems facing the archdiocese.

Immediately on becoming archbishop, he began a thorough review of Philadelphia's financial situation. New people have been brought in to deal with finances on an archdiocesan-wide level: a new Chief Financial Officer and a new Controller have both been hired.

The archdiocesan paper, The Catholic Standard and Times, has closed, and 40 positions have been eliminated.

A new school system run by an independent Catholic foundation is now responsible for the administration of 21 Catholic schools. In the same realm, 27 Catholic schools have been closed, as have 9 parishes.

Archbishop Chaput's stated goal is to balance the budget by 2014, and as a part of that effort has decided to sell his own residence to help the Church to attain a balanced budget.

Philadelphia's archbishop also mentions his efforts to respond to the sex abuse scandal, noting that the archdiocese has "greatly strengthened" its procedures to prevent the sexual abuse of minors.

"We remain strongly committed to helping victims of abuse to heal," he writes.

Archbishop Chaput says that he looks forward to celebrating the Year of Faith with his people and to growing in relationship with Jesus Christ, the Church, and each other.

"In the years ahead," he writes, "we need to speak the truth to each other with charity and respect – but also candidly, and without fear. This is the spirit that should animate every level of our Church life ... No one 'owns' the Church: not the bishops; not the clergy; and not our people. She belongs to Jesus Christ and to him alone."

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