Will Homeboy Archbishop Nelson Perez Feel Comfy With Failures In Philly?

Pope Francis announced Archbishop Nelson Perez as the next leader of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It’s a homecoming of sorts. After graduating St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1989, Perez was ordained by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. 

Bienvenido a casa

During my time at The Catholic Standard and Times, the archdiocesan newspaper, Perez served as the first director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization. Bevilacqua created the institute as a public relations bandaid for the wounds inflicted on the Hispanic community after he closed St. Henry’s Parish in North Philadelphia. There was outcry over removing the Catholic presence in a community where it was arguably needed most.

Perez was tasked with outreach to balance out the abandonment. Then the newspaper was told to cover it. Bevilacqua had his PR consultants review and edit out any negative quotes before we went to press.

While every effort in his role may have been genuine and helpful to the faithful, Perez was a pawn. He was ordained into a clerical culture of power, greed, hypocrisy, manipulation and well-documented secrecy. The clergy sex abuse coverup was in full swing. Memos were shredded, priests were shuffled and victims were silenced. What did Perez know and ignore? Did he merely survive and manage to thrive in spite of it?

Hope needs a plan

An Inquirer editorial on the announcement focused on “hope.” It referenced the theme of hope in Pope Francis’ message on the 53rd World Day of Peace. The pontiff said the year 2020 should be “a journey of hope and peace, not through words, but through daily gestures of dialogue, reconciliation, and care for creation.”

That quote offers important clarification. Hope alone is for the helpless. It can carry the powerless, abused and ill through dark and challenging times. Most of us are not helpless. It is our spiritual and moral obligation to add action to hope so that we can “care for creation.”

In an interview this past June, Perez told a Cleveland news station that he believes since 2002, the Catholic Church has put strict procedures in place to minimize the potential for child sex abuse allegations in the future. 

“It goes to civil authorities. It goes to an independent review board. A lot of work has been done in the last 18 years, which makes me feel comfortable,” said Perez.

We’re uncomfortable

We hope the bishop hasn’t unpacked that feeling from his suitcase. How can we be comfortable with the state of child abuse prevention in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In just the past year, there have been three arrests. These include a suspended priest accused of raping a teenage girl at a former parish assignment in Roxborough and two Catholic high school lay teachers accused of sexually assaulting students. Yay for the arrests, but let’s talk about better prevention.

All is not well with transparency either. Existing policies aren’t adequately enforced and needed policies aren’t in place. After a wide-spread boundary violation took place on social media that involved an order priest and several female high school students, the Archdiocese didn’t share its knowledge of the incident with the parents of involved students. However, if one of those students had done something damaging to their school’s reputation on social media, the parents’ phones would be ringing within hours. 

For years, Kathy Kane has asked Archdiocesan leadership to put a policy in place requiring them to notify the parents or legal guardians of any minors who are impacted by any known boundary violation. Those violations are outlined in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth for a reason. They are the proven gateway to abuse. No action.

There is still a lot of work to be done here in Philly to protect kids and our Catholic faith.

Replacing retiring Archbishop Charles Chaput, Perez will be officially installed on February 18th. 

Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Kathy Kane contributed key info and quotes for this article: “Nelson Perez’s appointment as archbishop brings speculation and celebration for Philly-area Catholics” by Justine McDaniel and Anna Orso, January 23, 2020

6 thoughts on “Will Homeboy Archbishop Nelson Perez Feel Comfy With Failures In Philly?

  1. I was entirely sick of Chaput. I consider him a total failure who did nothing for the problems existing in our diocese. I am so glad to see him gone. Saddened a bit however learning he plans to hang around. As for Bishop Perez coming to us I am very hopeful. A chance now exists to change the direction Chaput has taken us. It will take time but let us all give him that and offer our prayers for his success. I am very optimistic.

    1. John, I know this news makes you happy. Let’s hope that Bishop Perez also has better email etiquette than Archbishop Chaput. Those scolding emails from Chaput were one for the books! The demeanor that Bishop Perez showed at the press conference was friendlier than what we are used to these past few years.

  2. Susan Matthews–It’s exhilarating to read an article that pulls no punches about subject matter most are willing to just tiptoe around. It is unknown what Perez knew and what he ignored when he was here before. It’s hard to believe, with all that was going on, that he was unaware. However, his conclusion that the Church has, since 2002, put strict procedures in place and that the danger to children has been minimized is, at best, naive and uninformed, and possibly, it’s just something he says in his role as front man covering up the actual facts. Either way, it does not bode well for a new regime of transparency and integrity. As always, thank you and Kathy Kane for keeping us informed.

  3. Susan, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I guess we’ll have to “wait and see”, but Perez doesn’t sound promising. Hope it’s not just more of the same.

  4. We are taught as parish leaders not to make too many changes the first year unless it is absolutely necessary. So, I look forward to year 2021 and hope that Bishop Perez will have the courage and grace to address the corruption in the Philadelphia church.

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