07/18/2012 05:54 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2012

Samuel Aquila Becomes Denver's Fifth Archbishop Amid Controversial History

An invitation-only ceremony welcoming Denver's fifth archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, 61, began Wednesday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

A procession began from the Knights of Columbus hall to the cathedral with Catholic church officials where Aquila himself gave the homily before previous archbishops of Denver and Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. John Hickenlooper who were both reported to be in attendance.

Aquila is no stranger to Denver and has studied at the local St. Thomas Seminary, has a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was even ordained to priesthood in Denver in 1976. He was previously bishop of Fargo, N.D.

Aquila replaces Charles Chaput who was moved to Philadelphia where the church is still dealing with an extensive grand jury report that named almost 40 priests remaining in active ministry after finding disturbing evidence of sexual abuse. Since the report was raised over two years ago, some priests were found "not suitable for ministry" and the case is still listed as ongoing.

Denver's newest archbishop, appointed by current Pope Benedict XVI, has been described by Denver's 5280 publication as being "ideologically on par with his outspoken predecessor" Chaput who frequently spoke out against abortion and calling Barack Obama "the most committed ''abortion-rights'' presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973."

Aquila indeed has previously acquired some notoriety for speaking out against the 2009 decision of the University of Notre Dame to invite President Obama to give the school's commencement address and accused the university of "ignoring their Catholic identity."

While in Fargo, according to the Associated Press, Aquila spoke out against the American Civil Liberties Union for "the removal of God from anything," and assured reporters on Tuesday that he would hold firm to Catholic teachings when it came time for legislation on civil unions.

He went on to add that organizations that encourage people to keep their faith quiet is “imposing on us their beliefs and their value system.”

In his 2009 letter protesting the President's invitation to speak at Notre Dame to Rev. John Jenkins, the president of the university, Aquila wrote:

Even though President Obama is not Catholic, he clearly rejects the truth about human dignity through his constant support of a so called “right to abortion.” He also tolerates the inexcusable act of letting aborted children die who are born alive. He promotes an intrinsic evil which must always be resisted by a just and civil society.

Inviting President Obama to award him a degree and to speak at a Catholic University implicitly extends legitimacy to his views on these issues in the minds of the average onlooker. Your actions and that of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame do real harm to the mission of Catholic education in this country and further splinters Catholic witness in the public square.

By way of a response while introducing President Obama as the commencement speaker to the university's class of 2009, Rev. Jenkins said this:

The world you enter today is torn by division – and is fixed on its differences.

Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides – taking opposing views of the same difference — demonize each other. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national — trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends … even for the sake of causes all sides care about.
More than any problem in the arts or sciences – engineering or medicine – easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.

An earlier version of this article said that only eight cases had been resolved in the grand jury findings about sexual abuses committed by priests, but on July 6 the archdiocese of Philadelphia sent out a press release about six more priests. Four of the six were found "suitable for ministry," with the remaining two found "not suitable."

The article has been corrected to reflect those latest findings.

The archdiocese however stressed that of those found unsuitable for ministry "none were due to a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor and five were due to a substantiated violation of the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries."

Within the Catholic church, the consequences for those found to have a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor if they do not appeal the decision finding them unsuitable, are to be laicized or to "live a life of prayer and penance." The Prayer and Penance program was established in 2005 and creates a way for archdiocesan priests who've committed sexual abuse to remain priests even though the Church will no longer allow them to present themselves publicly as such.