PHILADELPHIA, July 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver to head the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in place of retiring Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Chaput is renowned not only for his strong pro-life pastoral ministry, but also for his outspoken defense of Catholic values in the public sphere, especially among Catholic politicians.
In an interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Register published Tuesday, Chaput reaffirmed his stance on one of the most contentious issues among pro-life Catholics: that publicly pro-abortion politicians must not receive Holy Communion.
When asked about a “communion ban” for such persons, Chaput responded: “I think that people who make decisions contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in public ways, in matters of faith and morals, should decide for themselves not to receive communion.”
“They’ve broken their communion with the church, and to receive communion means you’re in communion with the church. If you’re not, it’s hypocritical to receive communion,” the archbishop continued.
Chaput concluded that the best route is “the way the bishops of the United States have agreed together to handle it, which is first of all to talk personally with those individuals who make decisions contrary to the teaching of the church.” “If they fully understand the teaching of the church and continue to act contrary to it, we should ask them not to receive communion,” he said.
Allen pressed Chaput on a number of other contentious political points, including the federal health care bill and President Obama’s honor at the University of Notre Dame in 2009. Chaput lamented that the Catholic Health Association’s public support of the health bill in opposition to U.S. bishops was “a severe moment of lack of communion in the church.”
Chaput also recalled that he was “very disappointed” in Notre Dame’s decision.
Chaput, a Kansas native and member of the Native American Potawatomi tribe, was appointed bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota in 1988, before becoming archbishop of Denver in 1997. In his 2008 book “Render Unto Caesar,” Chaput urged Catholics in the political realm to maintain the integrity of their Catholic beliefs, challenging the “personally pro-life” philosophy that has led to the proliferation of pro-abortion Catholic politicians since the 1960s.
Chaput told Allen that, while a little intimidated at the change, he wasn’t about to refuse the pope’s summons to one of the most influential Catholic pulpits in America.
“I’ve been trained in my Capuchin formation that you do what you’re asked to do, and you think about it later,” said the archbishop. “Even to have thought about it for a while before saying ‘yes’ would have been contrary to my formation. If the Holy Father asks me to do something, I’ll do it, with joy and enthusiasm, as best I can.”
The pope on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Cardinal Rigali, 76, another major pro-life advocate. Both as head of the Philadelphia see and the pro-life office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rigali became known for his unwavering defense of the unborn, even in politically-charged contexts.
Rigali told LifeSiteNews.com in 2009 that Notre Dame’s defense of the Obama honor based on the president’s different faith background “evades common sense.”
“To honor somebody [who is pro-abortion] ... whatever his or her merits may be, whatever splendid things this person may do, whatever position he or she occupies ... makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.