Cleaning up after abuse

In itself, it is an uphill climb that Charles Joseph Chaput answered the call of Pope Benedict XVI. received to the head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His previous place of service, Denver, ranks in the middle of U.S. bishoprics by number of Catholics; Philadelphia, with 1.5 million members, is the sixth largest. But Chaput also takes on the mortgage of an abuse scandal.

But Chaput seems the right man for the job. The 66-year-old also faced abuse allegations against his own clergy on several occasions in Denver. He boasts, however, that his archdiocese has always reacted promptly to suspected cases, removed accused clergy from pastoral care and called in state authorities.

"The Archdiocese of Denver does not allow any priest to minister if there is a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against him," Chaput explained in 2007. Last year, he called for testimony by pastoral letter after credible allegations against a cleric. Likewise, he stood before a priest – long dead – when complaints proved groundless.

Reservations about Barack Obama
With the same clarity, Chaput made no secret of his reservations about Barack Obama during the last presidential campaign. He advised Obama's Catholic supporters to at least exert better influence on their man. To change the latter's liberal views, it will take "a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis and pious talk of 'personal opposition' to the killing of unborn children," wrote Chaput. Then, when Obama became president, he wished him "wisdom and moral courage" so that he would "defend every human life without exception".

Such filings, as well as his protest against embryonic stem cell research, solidified Chaput's reputation as one of the highest-profile protectors of life among U.S. bishops.
Nevertheless, he condemned the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller in May 2009. Nor are pro-life and family the only ies he's gone out on a limb on: After mass arrests of illegal immigrant workers at the U.S. southern border, he lamented shortcomings in immigration law and called for "immediate and very serious reform"; he repeatedly protested the death penalty.

Not the first challenge
Sense of concreteness and unvarnished speech mark him as a member of the Capuchin order. On 26. Born Sept. 1944 in Concordia, Kansas, Chaput came into contact with the Franciscan spirit while still a student at a Catholic school. In 1965 he entered the Capuchin Order and studied, among other places, at the Capuchin College in Washington and in San Francisco. There followed years as a lecturer and parish priest, then tasks in the leadership of the order in Denver up to the office of provincial, which he took over in 1983. Five years later, Pope John Paul II appointed him. To bishop of Rapid City in the state of South Dakota, in 1997 to archbishop of Denver.

Chaput is trusted by his fellow bishops; they almost elect him vice president of the bishops' conference in November. And also in Rome one regards its past work apparently with pleasure. In July 2009, when an investigation of the order's structures was pending after a scandal involving the founder of the "Legionaries of Christ," Marcial Maciel Degollado (1920-2008), Chaput was among the five Vatican investigators.

Chaput also played a role in the controversy over the Australian Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. In view of the shortage of priests, Morris had thought about relaxing celibacy and ordaining women. The Vatican sent Chaput to gather information on the ground. The matter ended in May with Morris" resignation.

In Philadelphia now a new challenge waits. The bishop's chair in Pennsylvania is traditionally associated with the cardinal's dignity. Chaput, descendant of the Potawatomi tribe, would then be the first Native American to receive the red biretta.

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