letter to the faithful of his archdiocese.
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Dear friends in Christ,
Exactly three months ago, on September 8, I was installed as Archbishop of
Philadelphia. In the weeks since, traveling the archdiocese, Iíve been struck by
two things I encounter again and again: the reservoir of good will in our
people, and the fidelity of our priests.
The Church in Southeastern Pennsylvania has deep roots and an extraordinary
legacy of saints, service and public witness. These are profound strengths,
built by the faith of generations of Catholic families. But all of these good
facts depend on our willingness to sustain them by our actions in the present.
Advent is a season of self-examination in the light of Godís word; a season of
conversion and looking forward in hope to the birth of a Savior at Christmas.
There is no better time to speak frankly about the conditions we now face as a
community of believers.
Complacency is the enemy of faith. To whatever degree complacency and pride once
had a home in our local Church, events in the coming year will burn them out.
The process will be painful. But going through it is the only way to renew the
witness of the Church; to clear away the debris of human failure from the beauty
of Godís word and to restore the joy and zeal of our Catholic discipleship.
In the year ahead, we have a grave and continuing obligation to help victims of
clergy sex abuse to heal; to create Church environments that protect our young
people; and to cooperate appropriately with civil authorities in pursuing
justice for both the victims of sexual abuse and those accused.
At the same time, we need to remember that many hundreds of our priests -- the
overwhelming majority -- have served our people with exceptional lives of
sacrifice and character. Since arriving in September, I have pressed for a rapid
resolution of the cases of those priests placed on administrative leave earlier
this year. The first months of 2012 will finally see those cases concluded.
Whatever the results, the confidence of our people and the morale of our priests
have suffered. The hard truth is that many innocent priests have borne the brunt
of the Churchís public humiliation and our peopleís anger. The harsh media
environment likely to surround the criminal trial which begins next March will
further burden our lay people and our clergy. But it cannot be avoided.
Finally, the resources of the Church do not belong to the bishops or the clergy;
they belong to the entire Catholic people, including the faithful generations
who came before us. The Church is a community of faith alive in the present but
also connected across the years through time. The Church holds her resources in
stewardship for the whole Catholic community, to carry out our shared apostolic
mission as believers in Jesus Christ. This means that as archbishop, I have the
duty not just to defend those limited resources, but also to ensure that the
Church uses them with maximum care and prudence; to maximum effect; and with
proper reporting and accountability.
In the coming year we will face very serious financial and organizational issues
that cannot be delayed. They must be addressed. These are not simply business
issues; they go to the heart of our ability to carry out our Catholic
ministries. The archdiocese remains strongly committed to the work of Catholic
education. But that mission is badly served by trying to sustain unsustainable
schools. In January, the archdiocesan Blue Ribbon Commission will provide me
with its recommendations on Catholic education. The Commission has worked for
months on this difficult issue with extraordinary sensitivity and skill. It will
likely counsel that some, and perhaps many, schools must close or combine. It
will also offer a framework for strengthening our schools going forward.
Over the next 18 months the same careful scrutiny must be applied to every
aspect of our common life as a Church, from the number and location of our
parishes, to every one of our archdiocesan operational budgets. This honest
scrutiny can be painful, because real change is rarely easy; but it also
restores life and health, and serves the work of Godís people. We cannot call
ourselves good stewards if we do otherwise.
These words may sound sobering, but they are spoken with love as a father and a
brother. They are a plea to take our baptism seriously; and to renew our local
Church with Christian charity, justice and zeal. As Scripture reminds us so
frequently: Do not be afraid. God uses
poor clay to create grandeur and beauty. He can certainly use us to renew and
advance the work of the Church -- and he will.
On this great feast of Maryís Immaculate Conception, may God grant you and those
you love a holy Advent; and lift your hearts; and make you ready for the joy of
Christís birth. And please pray for me, as I pray for all of you and your
families every day.
Gratefully yours in Jesus Christ,
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia