When last we saw Bishop Charles Chaput, he was spending his time as Archbishop of Denver upholding a decision to throw two children out of Catholic school because their parents were lesbians. In the Catholic Church, this is called Best Possible Career Move Ever. As a result, Chaput just got kicked upstairs by the Vatican: he’s been named the new archbishop of Philadelphia. A title change is likely in the offing too: The holder of the position usually gets named a cardinal, which gives him Class A voting rights when the next pope has to be chosen. (Not that we’re wishing something untoward happens to Pope Benedict or anything.)
Even by the heady standards of the Church, Chaput has been one of the most conservative defenders of all things Catholic. (This is the bishop who condemned Notre Dame for giving President Obama an honorary degree, was critical of Obama’s health care law because he believed it promoted abortion, and who said that anyone who voted for John Kerry, a Catholic, in 2004 was “cooperating with evil.”)
Needless to say, gay rights have been front and center for Chaput’s militant version of Christianity, with the bishop calling gay marriage “the issue of our time.” Earlier this spring, he praised the Colorado state legislature for stopping a civil union bill. Chaput trotted out the usual defense of marriage that’s hardly a model of clear thinking. “Same-sex unions, whatever legal form they take, cannot create new life,” he wrote in a column. “They cannot duplicate the love of a man and woman. But they do copy marriage and family, and in the process, they compete with and diminish the uniquely important status of both.” Yes, marriage is a zero sum game, and if we let anyone else into it the club, the value of membership drops. How can you argue with that reasoning?
Chaput is replacing Cardinal Justin Rigali, who is retiring after a less-than-illustrious stint during which he denied the diocese was harboring any pedophile priests—only to have to reverse himself when a grand jury showed evidence to the contrary. (He might just as easily have denied that the Sun rises in the east.) Supporters say Chaput is just the man to heal the wounds caused by the pedophilia scandal, but it might be better to say that Chaput’s philosophy is that it’s time to move on. He’s argued strenuously against extending the statute of limitations in sexual-abuse cases on the grounds that “revenge is not justice, no matter how piously one argues it.” Apparently, justice has a timetable known only to Chaput.
Photo Credit: Catholic News Service