Abp. Chaput’s comments on Pope Francis from Rio


Archbishop Chaput comments on Pope Francis
Archbishop Chaput comments on Pope Francis


A very interesting article caught my eye, which details a few telling comments from Archbishop Chaput regarding the first few months of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

The article, which ran in the NCR, specifically pulled the following comments from Abp. Chaput:

  • The 68-year-old Capuchin conceded that last night’s mob scene with the papal motorcade was a “frightening moment,” hinting that perhaps Francis could listen a bit more to handlers charged with his safety and saying, “There has to be some distance between the crowds and the Holy Father.”
  • Chaput acknowledged that members of the right wing of the Catholic church “generally have not been really happy” with some aspects of Francis’ early months and said the pope will have to find a way “to care for them, too.”
  • Chaput defended Francis on concerns in some circles that he’s been silent on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia, saying, “I can’t imagine he won’t be as pro-life and pro-traditional marriage as any of the other popes.” He insisted the bishop of Rome “has to talk about those things.”

If you know anything about Chaput, it is that he is a precise speaker and thinker. There is surely more to these quotes than what you get at first glance, but in both what he says and doesn’t say, there is something to be gleamed.

My first thought is that the three things have something in common – the Pope more than likely doesn’t have a tight circle of advisors that he listens to yet, and he might be purposefully delaying such a circle. All three comments talk about his seeming unwillingness to be a “business as usual Pope.” I think this is serving him well in how he wants to lead, but like any other ideology, if you become and ideologue over someone that allows a philosophy to guide you then you run the risk of losing sight of your goals.

Pope Francis Motorcade in Rio at WYD.
Pope Francis Motorcade in Rio at WYD.

Now I am not saying that is what is happening, or even will happen, but it is a risk. The motorcade example is a perfect anecdote. The Pope insists on doing things a certain way, especially being “with the people” and while he might not have any personal concern he is the Pope. Much as we have to properly view him, he too must properly view his role. God placed him to lead the Church and while thrusting yourself into harm is sometimes necessary, it is also sometimes foolish.  Moderation, temperance, these are virtues … in all things.

As for the “right wing of the Church” comments it is interesting. Chaput acknowledges this idea, but quickly brushes past it, but not before he says that Pope Francis must accept that such a group exists and is right to be tended to.

For all of Pope Benedict’s detractors within the Church, those that said he was “too conservative” or “too this or that” he spoke to those who disagreed with him and attempted a Catechesis with them. Always teaching was Benedict’s model. Even if this wasn’t direct or explicit, he recognized their existence, and cared for them through Catechesis and love. Even in small things, like the focus of his Encyclicals or his public acts.

While I agree with Chaput, and acknowledge divisions in the Church (both benign and malignant) I don’t think that the fissures are so deep that it is “two Churches.” I think the point is that many in the Church, like the Saints, find their spiritual life filled through different measures and paths. A new Pope is not like a new elected official. We don’t ignore the last “guy” when “our guy” comes in. There must be a HERMENEUTIC OF CONTINUITY not just in the teachings of the CHURCH but within the communal life of the Church. That is the entire point of the Eucharist.

So my prayer for the Pope, the Church, and really all of this is that we continue what Pope John Paul started and what Pope Benedict magnified – an intense love and longing for the Eucharist. Let our hearts and our minds rest on the TRUE PRESENCE. Let Him fill us and our needs.

He must increase… we must decrease.

  • tj.nelson

    Good post. I wasn’t too happy about the Archbishop’s ‘right wing’ statement. It doesn’t seem helpful.

  • martin dolan

    I’m sure he used other words that the NCR neglected to use that were more appropriate.

  • Rhoslyn Thomas

    I suppose the Archbishop is conscious that he has to be very careful not to ignore the concerns of those within the Church regarding Pope Francis’ pontificate thus far and not to be overly critical of the Pope either in his words or in his thoughts (I think that anyone loyal to the Church has to be careful in his thoughts too! It’s just not just what comes out of your mouth that counts, is it).

    For me it is clear that Pope Francis is doing his best. I think his best is not working at the moment but at least he’s trying and he means well, which is something. All is well that ends well and it is up to us to ensure that Pope Francis is helped as much as possible by our prayers for him and our obedience to God’s Truth.