PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Catholic Church stands at a crossroads.
Next Thursday, Archbishop Charles Chaput will be installed as the next leader of the region’s 1.4 million Roman Catholics, replacing Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Chaput faces what some are calling an historic crisis in the local church — measured by the wounds of priest sex abuse.
“I am one person in the face of a vast responsibility,” says Chaput.
When you meet archbishop Charles Chaput you hear a man un-intimidated by the complex and troubling issues waiting for his attention.
“Certainly, the sexual abuse issues are very high on my priority list, but it’s not the only thing,” said Chaput. “I can’t let this be the only issue, otherwise I won’t be serving the church and the people as I should.”
Archbishop chaput is a 66-year-old cleric, with energy that belies his age.
“As Franciscans, we are taught that the church is the voice of Christ and that you need to respond simply and without hesitation to whenever Christ calls.”
But the archbishop is not responding to that call alone.
In a highly unusual move, Fran Maier, a layman who has been Denver’s Chancellor, will move his family east and become Chaput’s senior advisor here.
“It’s afterward when you think, ‘oh my god… I’m 62. What am I doing?’ You don’t look back, not with a man like him,” said Maier.
Over 14 years, Maier says he’s watched archbishop Chaput’s pastoral presence breed loyalty in the people around him.
“He’s disciplined that intelligence to reach average people. And meet them on their ground. And I think that’s one of his strongest suits as leader,” Maier says.
While Maier has read both Grand Jury reports on priest sex abuse, Archbishop Chaput intends to finish reading them before arriving here.
They have not discussed them.
Maier believes it wouldn’t make sense to interpret them without being on the ground here first.
“I hope to read it objectively and clearly and hope it gives me a perspective on what the issues are in Philadelphia. But i also want to read it mercifully,” said Chaput. “But mercy, forgiveness and love doesn’t mean you don’t act. The priests took advantage of their identity. You know, the collar… As a way of sinning seriously against these young people. It’s a horrible thing.”
Reported by Pat Ciarrocchi, CBS 3