Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Archbishop Charles Chaput

9/27/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Philly (

First, we need to be very careful in taking mass media coverage of the Catholic Church at face value. Second, we need to actually read the Holy Father's interview for ourselves, and pray over it, and then read it again, especially in light of the Year of Faith.

The modern heart can only be won back by a radical witness of Christian discipleship - a renewed kind of shared community life obedient to God's Commandments, but also on fire with the Beatitudes lived more personally and joyfully by all of us.

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap.,D.D.
Archbishop of Philadelphia

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap.,D.D. Archbishop of Philadelphia


By Archbishop Charles Chaput

Catholic Philly (

9/27/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Archbishop Charles Chaput, Philadelphia, Pope Francis, Intervew, mission territory, missionary age, Catholic Philly

PHILADELPHIA,PA (Catholic Philly) - I had the gift of two unusual blessings last week.  The first was a moment to greet Pope Francis in Rome after his Wednesday, September 18, general audience.  We had met and served as delegates to the 1997 Special Assembly for America.  Sixteen years have passed, but this Pope has a remarkable memory to match his generous spirit.  He recalled a friendly conversation we'd had in great detail, and the events of those days that helped shape both of us as young bishops.

The second blessing was being away from the United States on September 19 when Jesuit magazines around the world released the Pope's remarks to Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J.  Thanks to my schedule, I couldn't read the full interview until I was on the plane home, four days after it appeared.  But the emails I received about it - some of them happy; some of them angry; some of them gloating; some of them from Catholics feeling confused or even betrayed - were instructive.

Some people grasped at the interview like a lifeline - or a vindication.  One person praised the Holy Father for stressing that the "Church must focus on compassion and mercy, not on enforcing small-minded rules."  She added that "we're at last free from the chains of hatred that have ruled the Catholic Church for so many years and led to my unease in bringing my own children into that Church."

More common though were emails from catechists, parents and everyday Catholics who felt confused by media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.

I heard from a mother of four children - one adopted, another disabled from birth - who'd spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics.  She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices.  A priest said the Pope "has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded," and that "[if you're a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem."  Another priest wrote that "the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church."

We can draw some useful lessons from these reactions.  First, we need to be very careful in taking mass media coverage of the Catholic Church at face value.  Second, we need to actually read the Holy Father's interview for ourselves, and pray over it, and then read it again, especially in light of the Year of Faith.  A priest here in Philadelphia asked for a show of hands at a Mass last Sunday, and nearly everyone in the church, which was full, had heard about the Pope's interview.  But only five persons had actually read it.  Third and finally, we need to open our hearts - all of us - and let God lead us where he needs us to go through the words of the Holy Father.

Pope Francis does not at all turn away from Catholic teaching on matters such as sexuality and the sanctity of human life.  How could he?  We should remember that Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day - two women with an intimate, passionate devotion to the poor - also saw abortion as a brutal crime against the poorest and most defenseless of the poor: the unborn child.

Among the many vital things the Pope reminds us of in his interview is the new and drastically different condition of the modern world that God seeks to save.  It's one thing to argue about abortion and sexuality when both disputants in the debate share the same basic moral framework and language; the same meaning to words like "justice;" the same set of beliefs about the nature of the human person.  But it's quite another thing when we no longer have that common vocabulary.  The modern world is mission territory.  It's morally fractured.  Our politics, as Alasdair MacIntyre once famously wrote, is civil war pursued by other means.  The modern heart can only be won back by a radical witness of Christian discipleship - a renewed kind of shared community life obedient to God's Commandments, but also on fire with the Beatitudes lived more personally and joyfully by all of us.

There's a passage from the Pope's interview we need to remember in a special way in the weeks and years ahead:

"Proclamation of [Jesus Christ] in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things:  This is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.  We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel . . . The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives."

The Holy Father asks none of us to abandon the task of bringing the world to Jesus Christ.  Our witness matters.  Every unborn child saved, every marriage strengthened, every immigrant helped, every poor person served, matters.  God calls on us to help him sanctify every aspect of our shared lives - at home, at work and in the public square.

But if, as the Pope describes her, the Church is a "field hospital" for the wounded in a cruel world, then the goal of our witness is to create a space of beauty and mercy; to accompany those who suffer; to understand the nature of their lives; to care for and heal even those who reject us.  We need to speak the truth, and work for the truth, with love.  And we need to realize that nothing we do - either as individuals or parish communities - will bear fruit unless we give ourselves to the whole Gospel with our whole heart.

--- is the web site of The Catholic Standard and Times, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which ceased publication in June 2012. Founded in 1895, The Catholic Standard and Times won numerous awards for outstanding journalism as it published weekly until September 2011, when it converted to a monthly. At that time it also launched the award-winning Phaith magazine.


More U.S.

BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big and so powerful, you won't believe this MASSIVE SHOCKING fact about it! Watch

Image of Obama is the titular head of the world's most nefarious terrorist organization, a title he may have inherited from his predecessor, and that will be passed to his successor.


If you were asked, what is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in human history, how would you answer? Global warming? Vaccines? The Moon Landing? Entire religions?  (Not that we agree with these). But what would you say? In a moment, we're going to offer an answer ... continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart Watch

Image of Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy, the love of the God who gave us life and liberty.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Happy Thanksgiving Day. May it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face as a Nation, we have much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we will find the strength we need to love even more fully. As we practice regularly ... continue reading

New ISIS video taunts United States to 'bring it on' Watch

Image of While the video is pumping up Islamist State, the fact of the matter is is the group is suffering heavy losses on the ground form allied bombardment, especially since Russia began bombing the group


A new video from the Islamic State is highlighting the high number of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide, in effect to tell the world's last remaining superpower to "bring it on." U.S. President Barack Obama has since dismissed ISIS as "a bunch of killers with ... continue reading

Horrific outrage erupts over proposed mosque in Virginia after Paris attacks Watch

Image of The Muslim community in Fredericksburg, Virginia has received support from the local Christian and Jewish clergy.


"Nobody wants your evil cult," declared a man at a zoning meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was lobbing his invective at several American Muslims there over a proposed mosque to be built there. "Every one of you are terrorists. I don't care what you say. ... continue reading

The revealing truth behind the traditional presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon Watch

Image of President Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to use the word


President Obama will pardon two turkeys - named Tom One and Tom Two - from a turkey farm in Modesto California on Thanksgiving Eve as part of an annual presidential tradition. Obama will make a few jokes with his family and then pardon the turkeys to live out ... continue reading

'Domestic terrorism': 5 People shot during Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis Watch

Image of Despite a shooting at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protest, the group plans to return to the precinct to continue their protests.


Protesters were standing outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis for Black Lives Matter in the case of 24-year-old Jamar Clark when gunshots rang out. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -Five protesters were shot outside the police station Tuesday afternoon as one ... continue reading

Planned Parenthood sues the State of Texas: Find out why NOW Watch

Image of The complainants maintain that planned intervention of the government is a violation of the federal statute and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection.


Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit this week against the State of Texas for blocking its Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood says that the decision was motivated by politics - and not because of health care concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading

Terror threats spark shocking WORLD WIDE TRAVEL ALERTS Watch

Image of In either case, travelers can expect beefed-up security at airports in the coming weeks - and longer lines.


It is the start of the holiday season in the United States - and with the world still thoroughly rattled after the attacks in Paris this past November 13, travel alerts are in high effect. Even worse, those who decide to stay home through Thanksgiving and ... continue reading

Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, Catholics nurtured in the Anglican tradition, receives its First Bishop Watch

Image of Fr Randy Sly, a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. The Ordinariate was created by the Vatican on Jan. 1, 2012.On November 24, 2015. Pope Francis announced the appointment of ... continue reading

EVIL AGAINST EVIL: Mafia boss says his group will protect New York City against Islamist State Watch

Image of Now pursuing a screenwriting career, Giovanni Gambino says that following the terror attacks in Paris on November 13, protection is more important than ever.


It is highly ironic, an example of the kettle calling the pot black as it were . Son of New York mob boss Giovanni Gambino is warning the Islamic State that if they decide to take New York City on, they will have the mafia to contend with.  LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading

All U.S. News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Happy Thanksgiving Day: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: God is good
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • St. James Intercisus: Saint of the Day for Friday, November 27, 2015
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Bet you've never seen a space rocket do THIS!
  • Daily Readings for Friday, November 27, 2015

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:2-14
2 Daniel said, 'I have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81
75 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills, praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree and indeed every ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2015 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of ... Read More