Catholicism: The Philadelphia Story
For too long, officials here avoided making unpopular decisions, said Rocco Palmo, an expert on the Catholic Church and writer of the blog Whispers in the Loggia.
Parishioners were never told that the church was sinking in the red, Mr. Palmo added, and this year’s announced cuts, which will be far from the last, took many by surprise.
“Chaput has taken on the toughest job any bishop in the United States has faced in at least 50 years,” said Mr. Palmo, who has been appointed by the archbishop to an advisory council, praising him for changing the culture of what had been an insular and often imperious clergy.
This is the view of my Catholic friends there, for what it’s worth. They are hurting like everybody else is, but they believe that with Chaput’s arrival, the hard decisions that ought to have been made a long time ago are finally being made, and a corner has been turned. I remember when I first arrived in Philly, back in 2010, having a conversation with a very well-informed and committed Catholic, who was quite melancholy about the situation in the archdiocese. He told me that most of his fellow Catholics there had no real idea how perilous the situation for the RC church there was. He wasn’t talking at all about the abuse scandal. He was talking rather about the complacency and the belief that all those buildings, and all that history, would protect the archdiocese from decay.
He told me that he seriously wondered if there would be much of a church in Philly for his children to inherit when they were grown. My friend is neither a conservative nor a gloom-and-doomer. What he saw back then is now becoming more widely known. Again, my Catholic friends there say it’s better to acknowledge the painful truth and to deal with the world as it really is than with pious illusions. They’re right. It is always better to live in truth.