Archbishop Charles Chaput, 66, of Denver takes over an archdiocese of nearly 1.5 million Catholics that’s been rocked by two grand jury reports that accuse the church of hiding sex-abuse complaints for decades. A high-ranking monsignor is charged with felony child endangerment for his handling of priest transfers.
And, like other dioceses, Philadelphia faces a dwindling supply of priests and nuns and seemingly endless rounds of school closings and consolidations.
"I do not know why the Holy Father sent me here," said Chaput, who has spent most of his career in the western United States. "(But) no person will work harder to try to help persons who have been hurt by the sins of the past."
Chaput is known as an outspoken bishop who criticizes Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, speaks out against government playing too large of a role in health care and opposes gay marriage and stem-cell research. Last year, he defended a Catholic school’s decision not to re-enroll a lesbian couple’s children.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called Chaput’s apology to Denver abuse victims "lofty words" that didn’t jibe with his opposition to the 2006 proposal to extend the statute of limitations for sex offenders.
Chaput pushed sex abuse victims to settle their claims, ensuring little information was released about what church officials new about the allegations.
"His track record on dealing with abuse is deplorable," Blaine said.
By David O’Reilly, Paul Jones and Michael Matza
A Franciscan priest of the Capuchin order, Chaput (pronounced shap-you) was the first American Indian to become a Roman Catholic archbishop when he was named to Denver in 1997. His mother's family belongs to the Potawatomi tribe, and he was made a member as a boy.
Below: Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.