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Are Pope Francis and the US bishops split? Don’t believe the critics.

Ahead of the papal visit to the U.S., some critics have painted a narrative pitting Pope Francis against the “conservative” American bishops – but the Archbishop of Philadelphia doesn’t believe them.

Claims that that Church ignores the poor while obsessing over things like abortion and human sexuality are nothing new to members of the Catholic hierarchy, not even to the Pope himself, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a recent column.

“When Francis was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, Argentine political leaders reviled him publicly as ‘the leader of the opposition,’” Archbishop Chaput said. “When he defended Church teaching on issues like sexuality and marriage, they accused him of conducting ‘an inquisition.’”

The archbishop said critics claim the United States’ Catholic bishops, especially the “conservative” ones, spend too much time tackling issues such as religious freedom and the sanctity of human life while ignoring the poor and needy.
But nothing could be further from the truth, the archbishop continued. While the Church will continue to call for the respect of human life and religious freedom, dioceses across the U.S. spend substantially more in terms of dollars and manpower on caring for the poor and needy.

“If there’s anything ‘lopsided’ about the real witness of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, it’s weighted heavily in favor of the poor. It always has been. And that’s the reality in nearly every diocese in the United States,” he said. “But it’s not a fact that fits comfortably into a storyline of ‘compassionate Pope Francis vs. conservative American bishops.’”

Each year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia alone spends $4.2 million of privately donated funds caring for the homeless, battered women, people with disabilities and immigrants. On top of that another $100 million in public funding go towards similar efforts.

By comparison, fewer than 200 of the 1,600 full time employees for archdiocesan social ministries work in parenting, family and pregnancy services. The archdiocese spends less than $200,000 on “sanctity of life, family and laity” issues.

The archbishop said he hopes Pope Francis will see “how the American Church really conducts her mission” and learn “that American Catholics in general, and Philadelphia Catholics in a very special way, love and support him wholeheartedly.”

“I hope he sees that there’s tremendous good in our country, and a lot of it began here in Philadelphia, where our nation was born,” he said.


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