Archbishop Chaput Wants Everybody to Know He’s Cool With Pope Francis

"I was not criticizing the Holy Father," Chaput says.

Yes, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Chaput is known as one of the more vocally conservative leaders of the Catholic Church in America. Yes, Pope Francis is turning out—rhetorically at least—to appear somewhat liberal. (“Somewhat liberal” being defined by the boundaries of, you know, Catholic doctrine.) But the archbishop wants everybody to know he is nonetheless cool with the pope.

Chaput made his remarks to the Inquirer Tuesday, at a gathering of American bishops in Baltimore. He specifically referenced a June report in the National Catholic Reporter in which he appeared to criticize Pope Francis.

“What I brought up was that I’m aware there are people who are critical of the Holy Father” for perceived liberalism on some issues, “and that it’s important that he talk to them, too.

“That is the fact,” said the archbishop. “I’ve never been critical of the Holy Father and would never speak ill of him.”

A priest of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan order, Chaput described as “a great freshness, a great blessing for the church,” Francis’ call for greater care for the poor and openness to those who feel excluded from the church for reasons such as sexual orientation or divorce and remarriage.

As the former cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Francis is “the first non-European pope in a very long time,” Chaput noted, “and the way you see things from South America and the Southern Hemisphere is very different from northern Europe.”

The damage may be done, however. Chaput lost the vote to become vice president for the U.S. Conference of Bishops—a stepping stone to the presidency—with some observers suggesting they couldn’t let a “critic of Francis” win the vote.