Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chaput Goes to Philadelphia: My Reflections

Colleen has done a great posting over at Enlightened Catholicism about the Chaput appointment to replace Rigali in Philadelphia.  The Commonweal crowd have been kicking ideas around about the appointment in the last day or so, too.

I'm of two minds about posting re: this event for a variety of reasons.  In the first place, as I've said a number of times on this blog, I couldn't care less about the insider politics of the church, on which some Vatican- and chancery-watchers hang their hats.  You know the kind, the ones the bishops and the insiders call up to whisper sweet nothings about chancery gossip into their ears.

I don't get it.  To my way of thinking, it's like reporting on who's clad in what kind of silk nightgowns as the building burns down and its inhabitants flee into the night.

The more important story, it would seem to me, is the burning of the building.

But those who stick with the church and still find its dramatis personae attention-getting continue talking about these intraecclesial matters as if the building is not on fire, and so I suppose I'll put in my own two cents' worth, which will undoubtedly be of little interest to anybody who counts in the world or in the church.  And even though I do think the burning building is the far more significant story to be told right now.

Here are some of my own very scattered and not-yet-polished reactions to the news about Chaput's preferment:

1. As Colleen rightly points out, it represents a signal that Benedict continues to push the Republican Catholic church to center stage in the U.S.  And the reason for this decision on the Vatican's part is quite simple: it has to do with money and power.  The U.S. bishops, and through them the Vatican itself, are now in the hands of rich right-leaning corporate managers, and they do the bidding of those managers.  No one is more intertwined with that group of handlers than Chaput, despite his pretense to be all about standing up to Caesar and on the side of God.

2. Chaput has, from the moment he first came on my radar screen, struck me as exceptionally belligerent.  He is not the attractive face of the church, to say the least.  He is not the face of the gospel.  He is not the face of the Francis of Assisi he is vowed, as a Capuchin, to follow.  He is not the face of Jesus.  He is the face of a culture warrior molded by and indebted to his right-leaning corporatist culture-warrior handlers.

3. At one level, I actually feel a strange (and even somewhat amused) sense of relief that Benedict has chosen to move Chaput across the country, to a diocese he hardly knows, to "save" that diocese.  I'm sure Benedict and his Vatican cronies think they are being very foxy in taking this step, very in the face of many American Catholics who will be dismayed by this choice.  What they're actually doing is contributing to the rapid demise of the structures of the church they're ostensibly "saving."  And since I am of the strong opinion that those structures need to crumble, and as soon as possible, I welcome this foxy but ultimately quite stupid and belligerent move.

4. I found John Allen's "exclusive" interview with his crony Chaput hilarious.  Guy talk piled on guy talk.  Chaput is all things to all men.  As he tells Allen, he's "a little bit of everything," a "Midwestern kind of guy," but also "an old Pittsburgh guy" who's been "a Broncos fan" and "a Steelers fan" and who's now going to become "a Phillies fan, and an Eagles fan."  All this in response to "a guy named John Allen" who asks him about his sporting fanships.

Really.  I'm not making a word of this up.  Read the interview for yourself, and see.  That's really what they're talking about, the guys.  That's what the guy named John Allen and the old Pittsburgh guy who's a Midwestern kind of guy and a Broncos fan and a Steelers fan and a Phillies fan and an Eagles fan are talking about.

In the week after the Cloyne report.  As Chaput heads to a diocese in shambles due to what Rigali and other church leaders did there, vis-a-vis the abuse crisis.

As Chaput blusters about gay marriage as "the issue of our time" and informs the Allen guy, "It's also important to say that we're not against gay people."  Important to say, mind you . . . .  Emphasis on say.

That's really what the guys are talking about: sports.  And who's a fan of whom.  And what kind of guys they are in their mutual admiration guy club.  

As legions of Catholics walk away from the church with tremendous sadness.  As priests in Austria declare that they've had it with the pastoral mismanagement of bishops and the pastoral betrayal of their people.  As Ireland calls the papal nuncio on the carpet and gives signals that it doesn't want the pope setting foot on its shores.

As parishes are closed and amalgamated across the U.S. due to lack of money and lack of parishioners and lack of priests, and as increasing numbers of American Catholics find the bishops' claim to love their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters completely insincere, and as increasing numbers of American Catholics support the human rights of gay and lesbian human beings.

The guys are still talking sports.  Guy talk.  No women anywhere in the club or anywhere on the horizon.  Women need not apply.

And they imagine these are the most portentous conversations around, the ones we ought to drop everything and thank our lucky stars that we little nobodies have the opportunity to eavesdrop on, since these are the conversations that are making the church of the future.  Where the big boys talk among themselves, the ones who really count and really have the power to make things happen.

Really.  They really think that.

And they are so badly wrong.  Benedict and his calculations notwithstanding, as he thinks he has pulled a sly one in appointing his warrior bishop to this important post.

I somehow think that Francis would see things quite differently, and would be carrying on very different conversations right now, if the church were falling into pieces at his feet and he heard the Lord calling him to rebuild it.  Francis's path?  It was to reach out and and embrace, oh, everyone.

Lepers.  The flowers of the field and the birds of the air.  Clare and the women who chose to walk along with him and with Clare.  The sultan.  The homeless.

Those on the margins.  The despised and outcast of his period in history.  The ones made unwelcome by the powers that be in church and society in his day.

That's how Francis rebuilt the church.  He reached out and embraced.  And as he did so, he said that we should preach the gospel at all times and use words only when we absolutely have to do so.

His follower Charles Chaput's strategy?  To inform the children of a lesbian couple that they are not welcome in a school sponsored by his church.  And to talk guy talk, team talk, sports talk, macho-preening talk with another big boy as the church burns and falls down around their ears. 

Please do keep at it, boys.  Soon there won't be anything left but ruins.  And maybe that's precisely what the Lord who loves and embraces everyone is using you to accomplish at this point in history.

No comments: