Catholics React Swiftly and Strongly to Archbishop’s Restrictive Guidelines


Archbishop Charles Chaput

Pastoral guidelines excluding LGBT people from church ministries and encouraging same-gender couples and others to refrain from Communion have provoked strong responses in the Philadelphia area.

Archbishop Charles Chaput released the guidelines as his response to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, though they many have found them contradictory to the the document.

The guidelines instruct church ministers to restrict LGBT people from parish ministries, and to deny Communion to many others. Chaput said that same-gender couples offer a “serious counter-witness to Catholic belief” and “undermine the faith of the community.”

Responses to these restrictive guidelines have been swift and strong. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Catholic, tweeted that Jesus gave Communion out of love and to all people, and therefore “Chaput’s actions are not Christian.”

Stephen Seufert of Keystone Catholics, an online advocacy organization, criticized the archbishop in The Huffington Posthighlighting a challenging illustration to the ban on LGBT people in ministry:

“I hate to break it to Archbishop Chaput, but there are likely thousands of sexually active LGBT Catholics serving in ministry positions across the world. They’re consoling families, teaching children, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and are administering sacraments like the Eucharist. The Church would most certainly be poorer spiritually if all LGBT Catholics were removed from leadership positions.”

Seufert questioned the impact Archbishop Chaput’s lengthy LGBT-negative record has caused, and the further implications it may have. Citing the Jesuit truism about finding God in all things, Seufert concluded:

“If Archbishop Chaput can’t find any semblance of God in civilly married same-sex couples and their families, he’s not spending enough time with LGBT people and their families. . .

“He may not realizes this, but the more Archbishop Chaput resists civil liberties for non-traditional families, the more likely Catholics will push for internal change within the Church on marriage and the family. This internal change will occur with or without people like Archbishop Chaput because an ever increasing number of straight Catholics like me are taking the time to learn about, live with, and unconditionally love their LGBT brothers and sisters.”

It is an established reality that U.S. Catholics are, as Seufert noted, overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights. This dissonance between how Catholics are practicing their faith and what the archbishop seeks to impose could be problematic.

Kevin Hughes, a theology professor at Villanova University, Pennsylvania, told the Delco Times the ambiguities in Amoris Laetitia mean implementation could either expand pastoral care or it could lead to restrictions. If it is the latter, as with Chaput’s guidelines, Hughes said:

“I think there are parish communities in which divorced and civilly remarried people and/or gay couples are active participants in the life of a parish. The guidelines will ask for some very serious soul-searching among pastors and parishioners alike, and it will be very painful for some communities to sort out the questions of leadership and liturgical roles.”

Not all priests in the Archdiocese are following Chaput’s path. Fr. Joseph Corley of Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Darby, will host a discussion of the exhortation and the guidelines at his suburban Philadelphia parish, but with the aim of “helping people to develop an informed conscience.”

Letters to the editor published by The Inquirer in Philadelphia reveal members of the Catholic faithful deeply critical of the archbishop. Laura Szatny wrote that the “sheer arrogance and un-Christian attitude of Chaput continue to stun.” Kate Fleming questioned his priorities, noting the archbishop’s opposition to state legislation expanding the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse:

“Archbishop Charles Chaput should focus on policing his priests, who take a vow of celibacy, instead of his flock. Protecting innocent victims of sexual abuse by his employees seems to be a much more important problem than the sex lives of lay Catholics.”

Writing in Philly Mag, columnist Liz Spikol also noted the abuse scandals currently exploding in the Pennsylvania church and the harm the church has caused to people. She queried:

“Obviously, Chaput had no personal involvement in the tragic case of Brian Gergely [an clergy abuse survivor who committed suicide the same week the guidelines were released]. But Gergely’s fellow survivors know the kind of Church Chaput represents all too well — the kind where higher-ups are exalted regardless of their lack of humanity, where preventing scandal is more important that preventing harm. . .

“In his Pastoral Guidelines, Chaput refused to use common terms for members of the LGBT community. . .It is utterly dehumanizing. When will Chaput and those in his circle understand that his hardline approach, which has already caused so much damage, only does the Church harm? I look forward to the day when the Philadelphia Archdiocese — as well as those in other parts of Pennsylvania — serve as a model for Francis’s supremely humane teachings.”

Catholics all over Philadelphia have criticized the archbishop adequately. I would add only one more point to their observations. In Amoris Laetitia, one of the most striking lines from Pope Francis is when he addresses church ministers with these words, “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” There is much more in the 256-page document that contradicts Chaput’s guidelines, but these words about conscience seem paramount. The archbishop continues to replace Catholics’ consciences with his own judgements. Thankfully, Philadelphia Catholics are still listening to the that voice of God echoing in the depths of their being, and living the Gospel as they know best.

You can read more about the pastoral guidelines by clicking here. You can access New Ways Ministry’s statement in response by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


24 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    “Chaput said that same-gender couples offer a ‘serious counter-witness to Catholic belief’ and ‘undermine the faith of the community.'”

    I suggest that same-gender couples offer a counter-witness to the belief of the bishops, not to the Catholic belief as taught by Jesus, nor to the faith of the community.

  2. Gary Cox
    Gary Cox says:

    I live in Missouri and I sent a email to the office of Archbishop Chaput, I asked if he denied communion to 40% of his priests who are gay, I also asked if he had forgotten why he became a priest and more. I encourage more people to do the same. The phone # is available online as well. I imagine my excommunication papers are in the mail. So be it.

    • marlins03
      marlins03 says:

      My excommunication papers were my choice when I was ordained an Old Catholic priest. I could not be ordained in the RC because I would be a hypocrite – I would have to preach one thing and believe something else in my heart. Thank God for the gift of conscience.

    • amagjuka
      amagjuka says:

      My husband, Catholic school educated from K-grad school (two degrees from Notre Dame) once wrote to Archbishop Chaput. They had a back and forth, with Chaput insisting on dogmatic and totally unloving responses all the way. In the end, my husband gave up the conversation. Chaput seems very sure of himself–way more sure of himself than most humble human beings striving to follow Jesus Christ…

  3. lynne1946
    lynne1946 says:

    We can pray that the Holy Father sees fit to remove Chaput both from his position in Philadelphia and from his responsibility regarding Amoris Laetitia. Since he is directly opposing the Pope’s direction, we can hope so. At the very least we can be assured that parish priests will continue to ignore him.

  4. Maureen Fiedler
    Maureen Fiedler says:

    Your title should say “Catholics” – plural… in case you had not noticed… content is always great.

    Maureen Fiedler

  5. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    Lifelong conscience formation, asking ourselves each day–did we do the most loving act in each interaction? Prayer and reflection on what Jesus says and what Jesus does will lead Catholics to love. And love will win. Chaput seems to act from fear, not love.

  6. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    God’s people are dying in the streets of our cities by the actions of terrorists and hateful people. Our church leaders have been silent and would rather focus on forbidding divorced and LGBTQ Catholics from receiving Jesus in His gift of Eucharist. These same church leaders remain silent and cover up priestly sexual abuse. They would rather twist the “welcoming words” of Pope Francis and rather close the door to LGBTQ faithful Catholics. Let us pray that God turn their hearts of stone into hearts of a shepherd that they profess to be.

  7. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Ok. Fine many Catholics have called out Chaput on this, one of his many un-Christ like determinations, but there is no apology from him, nor any suggested reversal from the Bishops Conference, Papal Nuncio, nor the Vatican. Net result, Chaput’s horrible words stand. All across the US/world, caring Christians should stop supporting any Catholic organization that doesn’t align itself with Christ rather than hateful statements.

  8. Larry
    Larry says:

    It would put teeth in Pope Francis’ agenda and send a shot across the bow of all of these un-Christian prelates if the Pope called Chaput to Rome and reassigned him to the contemplative life in a remote monastery. You would see the rest of the culture warriors shaking in their boots afraid of losing their power and them maybe getting the idea to read AL and the Pope”s intent more carefully.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      YES!!! Pope Francis did precisely this to the absurdly pretentious, smugly self-important “Cappa Magna” Cardinal Burke — and Francis did it very early in his Papacy. Chaput would be a worthy candidate for the very same Papal rectification. — mainly due to the man’s extremely unhelpful and unpastoral arrogance. Chaput (like all of us) is entitled to his personal positions of conscience. But he is NOT entitled to attempt to enforce his extremist personal opinions upon ALL CATHOLICS within his diocese — especially when the Pope himself is in open disagreement with what Chaput is claiming to be dogmatic boiler-plate “Doctrines Of Faith”. Clearly, Chaput’s positions are not “Doctrines Of Faith” — since the Pope himself is conspicuously refusing to ratify them in his own authoritative pastoral discourses. These assertions are Chaput’s own private personal opinions — and nothing more than that. Nobody in his Diocese needs to take them seriously.

  9. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    There is so much researched information available – so many good Catholic gay couples and singles – education is key to understanding…and surely you would want to avail yourself of these. Leaders, whether in religious or political fields, need to be informed.

  10. Derek Williams
    Derek Williams says:

    Until the Church reforms it catechism demanding celibacy of homosexuals, or arranged marriage to an opposite sex partner who doesn’t mind not being loved, this is to be expected. It conforms with the official Vatican directives on LGBT people.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the world” discussed during the Synod on the Family. Asked specifically about Chaput’s restrictive guidelines, which, among other sanctions, ban gay and lesbian people in relationships from parish ministries […]

  2. […] for those like Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia who have sought to use the exhortation as a further hammer against LGBT Catholics and others marginalized by the church. Voices like Chaput have treated […]

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