Retired Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former archbishop of Philadelphia and Denver, lamented that within the Catholic Church currently no one can fill the places of the late Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell.

“Their absence is a very heavy loss because both men embodied articulate, faithful Christian intelligence in a remarkable way,” Chaput said. “No one in current Church leadership has the capacity to replace them. That will happen in time, but the talent bench at the moment seems pretty thin.”

The comments came in an interview with The Pillar, in which the archbishop touched upon the void in the Church’s hierarchy created by the deaths of the two prelates, as well as the dangers facing the Church with the “manipulation” involved in the Synod on Synodality, and some of the problems with the current pontificate.

Asked about the outcome of the three-year Synod on Synodality, Chaput warned against imprudence, manipulation, and dishonesty, saying, “About the outcome, I have no idea. About the process, I think it’s imprudent and prone to manipulation, and manipulation always involves dishonesty. The claim that Vatican II somehow implied the need for synodality as a permanent feature of Church life is simply false. The council never came close to suggesting that.”

The archbishop also called out the forced imposition of the topic of synodality during the 2018 synod in Rome as “manipulative and offensive.”

“I was a delegate to the 2018 synod, and 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,” Chaput declared.

Asked about “re-emerging debate” in the Church regarding fundamental questions of morality, such as Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and the Pontifical Academy for Life’s challenging of the principles laid out in Humanae Vitae, Veritatis Splendor, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Chaput lamented the destruction of the Academy for Life as an “insult” to the magisterium and legacy of John Paul II.

“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,” the archbishop said. “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.”

Denouncing claims of the Academy that contradicting previous magisterial teachings can be a “development of doctrine,” Chaput declared, “There’s no fidelity in watering down or breaking with the substance of the documents you mention.”

The archbishop was asked about Pope Francis and his pontificate. Commenting on his Jesuit background, Chaput said, “It’s clear that Francis governs like a Jesuit superior general, top-down with little collaborative input.”

The archbishop did not shy away from pointing out that the Pope’s reliance on “his personal discernment” is made in preference to the time-tested wisdom of prior popes and the Church throughout the centuries.

“He 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,” Chaput remarked.

Regarding the doctrinal problems and questions that have surrounded the Francis pontificate, the archbishop warned that “turning serious doctrinal concerns into a personality debate is just a convenient way of evading the substantive issues that need to be addressed. It also shows a complete ignorance of Church history.”

“Popes come and go, even the great ones, just like bishops and everyday Christians,” Chaput insisted. “What matters, whatever the cost, is fidelity to Catholic teaching — and no excuses need to be offered in pursuing that….”

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