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Archbishop Chaput asks Pope to postpone youth synod

Archbishop Charles J Chaput of Philadelphia pictured at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring assembly this year (CNS)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J Chaput is asking Pope Francis to call off the Synod of Bishops on young people this October to focus instead on the life of the bishops.

“I have written to the Holy Father and called on him to cancel the upcoming synod on young people. Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic,” the archbishop said at an August 30 conference at Philadelphia’s St Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to a report published on the archdiocese website.

In its place, Archbishop Chaput suggested that the Pope “begin making plans for a synod on the life of bishops”.

Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, confirmed the archbishop sent the letter to the Pope, but he offered no additional comments.

A source close to Archbishop Chaput told Matthew Schmitz of First Things that the archbishop’s call was for the synod “to be rescheduled – not cancelled outright. Chaput did not intend for the statements made at this event to become public, and does not intend to release the letter.”

Archbishop Chaput made his comments about cancelling the synod during a panel discussion called the “Cardinals’ Forum” on August 30. The discussion was supported by the Cardinal John Foley Chair of Social Communications and Homiletics and the Cardinal John Krol Chair of Moral Theology, both at the seminary.

The archbishop is set to participate in the October 3-28 synod on youth, and will be one of three panelists speaking on the topic “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”.

Confidence in the credibility of Catholic bishops has eroded in the wake of allegations against the former Washington Archbishop Theodore E McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury report on 70 years of clergy child sexual abuse in the state and the explosive letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former US papal nuncio, alleging the cover-up of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse by bishops in the United States and in the Vatican.

Pope Francis had previously confirmed Archbishop Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, as one of only five American bishops to attend the synod, all of whom were elected by their peers in the American bishops’ conference (USCCB).

In an August 30 letter to Pope Francis, signed by priests in the diocese, Bishop Edward J Burns, the bishop of Dallas, Texas, asked for an extraordinary synod to address issues in the latest Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis.

“The current crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, the cover-up by leaders in the church and the lack of fidelity of some have caused great harm,” Bishop Burns’ letter said.

“The topics should include the care for the safeguard of children and the vulnerable, outreach to victims, the identity and lifestyle of the clergy, the importance of healthy human formation within the presbyterate/religious community, etc.

“At the same time, to address the abuse of power, clericalism, accountability and the understanding of transparency in the Church.”