Update, July 19, 9:52 a.m.: The Archdiocese of Denver has announced that Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput will replace the Philadelphia archbishop. After a mid-morning press conference in Philadelphia, Chaput will celebrate Mass with Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Chaput will be officially installed as archbishop at 2 p.m. on September 8.
Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali, who has been caught in a firestorm of criticism this year over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against dozens of priests, is set to resign Tuesday, according to several Catholic news outlets.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver will replace the embattled Rigali. The newspaper cites unnamed sources, but Chaput has been rumored for months as the potential replacement for the Philadelphia archbishop and is a favored front-runner among Catholic bloggers and church observers.
Chaput is well-liked by conservative Catholics for being a outspoken proponent of traditional Catholic social teachings. He has spoken out against abortion and the death penalty and in favor of the poor and immigrants' rights. He also has spoken publicly against what he considers to be unfair media coverage of the Catholic Church, singling out The New York Times.
Philadelphia-based Rocco Palmo, who runs Whispers in the Loggia, one of the most popular Catholic news blogs, has placed his bets on Chaput. Other names that have been floated include Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.; and Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.
Greg Kandra, a deacon in the Archdiocese in Brooklyn who runs The Deacon's Bench, has also proposed possibilities: Bishop Joseph Pepe of the Diocese of Las Vegas, Bishop Joseph Galant of the Diocese of Camden, N.J.; Bishop Herbert Bevard of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Va.; and Archbishop James Green, a Philadelphia-born priest currently posted as a Vatican diplomat in Africa.
The closely watched appointment, which would come from Pope Benedict XVI, will likely set off a small domino effect in the U.S. Catholic Church, since Rigali's replacement will likely be a sitting bishop who will then need his own replacement.
Rigali, who turned 75 in April 2010 -- the age at which bishops are required to offer their resignation to the pope -- has been the object of much scorn since a scathing grand jury report released in February said the 1.5-million member Philadelphia archdiocese kept dozens of priests on the job despite credible sexual abuse allegations against them. After the report was released, 21 priests were suspended and two priests, a former priest and a Catholic teacher were arrested on charges of sexual abuse.
Rigali, who was born and ordained in Los Angeles, became the Archbishop of Philadelphia in 2003 after spending nine years as the Archbishop of St. Louis.