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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, May 3, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput scolded a dissenting, liberal outlet that calls itself ‘Catholic’ for an editorial filled with “paranoid venom” against the evangelization efforts of a number of lay Catholic groups that included EWTN, Legatus, and the Knights of Columbus. 

The National Catholic Reporter had conveyed its perception in an April 24 editorial of some lay Catholic groups in the op-ed as a “big money conservative” coalition it fears is buying “access and influence” in the Church. It listed the Knights of Columbus, EWTN, Legatus, the Napa Institute, the Busch School of Business and Economics at Catholic University of America, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), and the Chiarascuro Foundation.

Chaput criticized the editorial coming from what he called “one of our nation’s chronically unhappy religious publications” for its “paranoid venom” in a column Wednesday.

“This is odd,” wrote the archbishop. “It’s odd because, in practice, all of these groups are faithful to the teaching of the Church and eager for good relations with local bishops (note that Chiarascuro is a secular foundation inspired by Catholic principles). In fact, they embody one of the main messages of the Second Vatican Council: the empowerment of laypeople to take on the roles of apostles and missionaries. FOCUS alone has been and continues to be massively successful in evangelizing young adults,” he added.

Chaput said one reason why someone would attack these groups' evangelization efforts is because they disagree with the “ecclesial politics” that drive the groups. 

“The real problem for critics is that none of these groups is controlled by the “right kind” of ecclesial politics or bureaucracy,” Chaput went on to state, “and thus their effectiveness at what they do . . . scalds” (Emphasis is the Archbishop’s).

Archbishop Chaput gave an apropos reminder that flaws exist from left to right on the ecclesial spectrum, and said “these groups are honestly committed to serving the Church, doing good, and bringing people to Jesus Christ.”  

“Some of the best Catholic evangelizers in our country belong precisely to these organizations,” he said. “They need our gratitude and support, and when necessary our fraternal correction, but not paranoid venom.”

It’s an anxious time we live in, the archbishop said, and though the Church’s mission ultimately depends on God, it’s also reliant on bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople living and believing their faith, and showing apostolic zeal to “an unbelieving world that urgently needs Jesus Christ.”  

“In that light,” wrote Chaput, “undercutting the sincere, good-will mission efforts of fellow Catholics is a peculiar way of expressing one’s love for the Gospel.”   

The archbishop made telling points about opposition to the Church in opening his column by quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in wrapping up with St. Athanasius, upon whose feast day the archbishop’s May 2 column was dated.  

The future Pope Benedict XVI had said in 2002 that “a bishop must do as Christ did: precede his flock, being the first to do what he calls others to do and, first of all, being the one who stands against the wolves who come to steal the sheep.” 

“Ratzinger was well aware, from long experience, that whenever the Church does good work, she draws the attention and resentment of those who oppose her,” wrote Archbishop Chaput, “not just from without, but even more painfully from within.”

He then drew a parallel between periods of internal strife in the Church today and at the fourth-century Council of Nicaea, recalling how Athanasius of Alexandria fought for the true Catholic faith at Nicaea and throughout his entire ministry.  

Excommunicated by Arian bishops, loathed by Arian scholars, hated by emperors, falsely accused by enemies of cruelty, sorcery and murder, Athanasius was exiled five times for a total of 17 years, he recalled.  

Athanasius never gave up or compromised on principle, the archbishop noted, and never “lost his zeal for preaching the true Jesus Christ,” with truth winning out in the end.

“That’s my idea of a Catholic believer fully alive in the Lord,” stated Chaput. “And the lesson is this. If we can’t all be the servants and defenders and evangelizers the Church today urgently needs, then at least we can get out of the way of those determined to try.”