A Rigali in Chaput’s Clothing

We must demand more from Archbishop Chaput – more transparency, more support for legislative change, and more accountability.

While many Philadelphia Catholic pundits are cheering the recent appointment of Denver Archbishop Chaput to replace Cardinal Rigali, victims remain rightfully wary.  We’ve seen first hand how easy it is for church officials replace a priest, vicar general, or bishop and then claim that a local abuse crisis is “over.”

But as we all know, Philadelphia’s crisis is far from over.

No one can predict the future. But after a careful examination of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s career in Denver, we implore Catholics to be wary, law enforcement to remain vigilant, and law makers to never lose sight of the recommendations that the most recent grand jury report made earlier this year – especially since Chaput has acknowledged he hasn’t read the 2005 report, and refuses to comment on whether he has even glanced at the 2011 document (more on that below).

During this tenure in Denver, Chaput was cheered by many for what a “progressive” view on dealing with abuse in the church.  The truth was far different. Far, far different.

In 2006, when Colorado legislators tried to expand archaic statutes of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, including a civil window for older victims, Chaput spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and used the pulpit to kill the legislation.  In 2008 when another bill was proposed in the legislature, his (paid) spokespeople called the laws “inherently unfair,” even though an integral part of the law completely removed the civil statute of limitations for all children who were sexually abused from 2008 onward.  What about that is unfair?

While fighting the legislation, Chaput played a game well known in politics: “I’m bad, but so are they.” To do this, his lawyers did a simple search of Colorado public school teachers who has been arrested for sexual abuse. Then they put the names in a list, publicized it, and then claimed that Chaput had unearthed a scandal of molestation in the public education system.  The PR stunt was a slap in the face of clergy sex abuse survivors.  Why? Because the teachers on Chaput’s list were already exposed and  arrested, unlike the vast majority of the predator clerics in the Catholic church.  The teachers on Chaput’s list were not carefully hidden by their superiors, shuttled from parish to parish, covered-up by church officials, and allowed to molest more kids.

In fact, according to Bishop-Accountability.org, the leading database of documents chronicling the sex abuse crisis in the US Catholic Church, Chaput has been less than forthcoming in naming accused clergy.  In 2004, when the first national John Jay study on abusive priests was released, Chaput fudged the math. He only reported diocesan priests, and didn’t submit any information on religious order priests who – like himself – make up more than half of the priests in the diocese. (Remember, Chaput is a religious order priest, a Capuchin OFM).  Then, he only submitted the names of priests that the diocese had “confirmed” had abused kids, not the number of total accusations.   That sounds oddly similar to the problem in Philadelphia, when Cardinal Rigali said that no molesting priests were in ministry, just months before the grand jury found 37 accused priests working in parishes.

In 2009, when Katia Birge, an adult victim of rape, came forward to tell diocese officials how she was abused by a diocese volunteer, Juan Carlos Hernandez, she was vilified in the press.  Blaming the victim is an old and tired game.  Fortunately in this case, it did not work.  In the process of her battle, the media discovered that the Archdiocese of Denver did no background checks on volunteers who take adults and children on trips.  Chaput also refused to confirm if he did background checks on domestic priests.

Child victims of abusive priests such as Leonard Abercrombie (who molested numbers of children, including three brothers) and Harold White (who abused his own godson) have had to endure far worse.  It hasn’t been a picnic in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Finally, and probably most disturbing, Chaput has admitted that he has not read the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury report.  There has been no confirmation as to whether he has read the 2011 report.  How can anyone lead an Archdiocese if crisis if they refuse to acknowledge and study the key documents that exposed at least 37 perpetrators in ministry?

Philadelphia is at a crossroads.  The latest grand jury report was a tipping point – handing down indictments, vindicating victims, and pushing for serious legislative change.  Catholics are rightfully outraged.  But we urge them to not become complacent.  Instead, they must demand more from Archbishop Chaput – more transparency, more support for legislative change, more accountability – than has ever been asked from any other Philly cleric.

The only way that children will be protected now and in the future and the only way that victims will heal is if everyone – law enforcement, Catholics and legislators – remain vigilant, demand change and enforce transparency.   We – victims, children and the larger community – cannot afford a Rigali in Chaput’s clothing.


6 thoughts on “A Rigali in Chaput’s Clothing

  1. I am reading this for the first time in October 2011. All comments appear to be valid points of contention.

    Casteix writes, “We must demand more from Archbishop Chaput – more transparency, more support for legislative change, and more accountability.” Archbishop Chaput answers to a higher authority. We must beseech, request, demand, petition Almighty God that He will overcome the obstacles that restrict, constrain, obscure not only Archbishop Chaput but the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity from resolving the multi-facted issues surrounding preventing and eradicating not only priest sexual abuse but sexual abuse in families, in the homes, offices, entire communities outside and within the Roman Catholic Church. This action must and can only happen through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the prototype of the Church, for the People of God, the Church.

    No matter who is appointed to have jurisdiction over the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, whether Cardinal , Archbishop, or Bishop, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the bishops, priests, (diocesan, religious order priests), deacons, and laity in Philadelphia and througout need continuous, serious prayers.

    A victim of sexual abuse, whether the abuse occurred by a known or unknown perpetrator, by a lay person or ordained minister, is a person, a being, an individual…each victim heals at his/her own rate, in their own individual way. Statutes of limitation need to be eradicated across the board. Each sex abuse victim’s process of grief, experienced stages of grief, each healing, need for justice, confrontation with abuser to end their cycle of abuse, protection for other victims, courage to change the civil laws in each jurisdiction to prevent, protect potential and present victims, changing church laws to prevent sex abuse perpetrators whether the diocesan or religious order candidates from becoming seminarians, ordained priests…the issues are deep, complicated, overwhelming in their entirety, demanding attention, action at any level.

    Casteix concludes, “The only way that children will be protected now and in the future and the only way that victims will heal is if everyone – law enforcement, Catholics and legislators – remain vigilant, demand change and enforce transparency. We – victims, children and the larger community – cannot afford a Rigali in Chaput’s clothing.”

    Prayer is power. Sexual abuse of any kind is not about sex, but about violence. Abusers, I believe think, “Who will see? Who will care? Who will know?” God already knows the who, why, when, where, what of violence. Jesus came to bring the peace of His Father, our God in Heaven. Sexual abusers are dis-at-ease with the peace of Jesus Christ. Ordained priests consecrate bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but immediately thereafter can only touch sacred species.

    We are called to witness to the power of Almighty God. The Gospel of Luke states, “You are witnesses of this. See, I send down upon you the promise of my Father. Remain here in the city until you are clothed with power on high” (Luke 24:49).

    God asks us to be faithful. Jesus came to heal, cast out demons, and accomplish God’s purpose. To everyone reading this, “Through the power of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, receive His healing love. In Jesus’ Name, in His character, His personality, be healed. Be filled with the power of Almighty God to witness to His healing love. Go forth and take authority to love God, love yourself, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

  2. This article is slanted and hardly an objective assessment. Why would he be expected to read a six-year-old document a few days after being named to become archbishop of Philadelphia? Should he also have combed the personnel files and read the Inquirer archives? (And maybe those of the defunct Bulletin as well?)

    Use a little common sense! Look at the size of the documents and the facts that he is still administering the Denver archdiocese and is not yet archbishop of Philadelphia or in Philadelphia. I believe he did say in the Philadelphia news conference that he would read them before moving to Philadelphia. Give him a chance!

    In fairness, I believe his point regarding accused or convicted school teachers was that revision of statutes of limitations regarding civil suits ought to apply to them as well as priests. Shouldn’t it?

    Incidentally, I also think that anyone who covered up child abuse (as well as anyone who perpetrated it) ought to be prosecuted and jailed. But an accusation is not proof of guilt, even though some people seem to think that an accusation is all that is needed to get money.

    1. Until ANY organization is completely transparent,they will continue to cover up their own lack of truth and accountability. Child sexual abuse happens under secrecy. Stop making excuses for their crimminal behaviors.

  3. It appears to suit Bishop Chaput’s conscience, or lack of it, this refusal to read the Grand Jury Reports. How much easier to deny justice to victims of his priests rapists if he doesn’t even know who the priest rapists are and what they did.

    And such arrogance. In the name of Jesus, of course, he is probably too busy to read about all the guys on the altars who have lifelong careers out of molesting kids, or lifelong careers protecting all the guys on the altars who are molesting the kids. And hearing confessions. And coming to your death bed.

    Preventing perverted priests from receiving justice, helping to enable child molesters to continue perverting the sacred with children and with litugy and sacraments, this is no form of orthodoxy. Chaput needs to reread the catechism.

    Let us pray that his Native American roots knock some sense into him.

    Thank you, Joelle.


  4. As a citizen of Colorado, hopefully, the people of Philly will be more demanding of Archbishop Chaput and less trusting than the people of Denver. They should be prepared for the simple fact that Chaput will probably not change his ways when it comes to blocking legislative action, which might prove to be uncomfortable for the Church. There’s probably a very good reason why Chaput may not have read the Grand Jury Reports. Why Bother? If he is just going to block legislation and every attempt to bring to bring the Church into a position of accountability, what is the point of reading the Grand Jury reports? His time is probably better spent by interviewing pricey lawyers, who will defend the Church at all costs (to the Laity, of course).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *