ROME — The back-to-back deaths of Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop George Pell constitute a “very heavy loss” for the Catholic Church, Archbishop Charles Chaput said Friday.
While the Church will continue her witness because she depends on no one except Jesus Christ, the former archbishop of Philadelphia told The Pillar, a U.S.-based Catholic news outlet, their absence, nonetheless, is “a very heavy loss because both men embodied articulate, faithful Christian intelligence in a remarkable way.”
Moreover, the archbishop continued, no one “in current Church leadership has the capacity to replace them” because “the talent bench at the moment seems pretty thin.”
In the interview, Chaput also voiced criticism of the current pontiff, saying it is clear that Pope Francis “governs like a Jesuit superior general, top-down with little collaborative input.”
“He also seems to put much more emphasis on his personal discernment than on the discernment of past popes and the general discernment of the Church through the centuries,” the archbishop added.
For example, “some of the changes over the past few years at the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute have been imprudent and destructive,” he said in reference to the recent overhaul of these two organizations.
“In fact the whole purpose of the institute that St. John Paul established has been turned upside down; a clear insult to his magisterium and legacy,” Chaput said.
The archbishop also expressed his concern about the current consultative “synodal way” being adopted in Rome and elsewhere, ostensibly as a means to bring the laity of the Church into active participation in the direction the Church is taking.
The synodal process is “imprudent and prone to manipulation, and manipulation always involves dishonesty,” the archbishop declared.
“The claim that Vatican II somehow implied the need for synodality as a permanent feature of Church life is simply false,” he noted. “The council never came close to suggesting that.”
Having been personally active in the 2018 synod, Chaput said that “the way ‘synodality’ was smuggled onto the agenda was manipulative and offensive. It had nothing at all to do with the synod’s theme of young people and the faith.”
“Synodality risks becoming a kind of Vatican III Lite; a rolling council on a much more controllable, malleable scale. That wouldn’t serve the needs of the Church or her people,” he added.
“There’s no tradition of bishops delegating their personal responsibility for the universal Church to a smaller number of bishops, so any such development would need to be very carefully examined and discussed before any attempt at implementation,” he said. “That’s not the current spirit or reality of what’s happening.”