Nelson Perez Named as New Archbishop in Philadelphia, SNAP Responds
Philadelphia has a new Archbishop, a man who is tasked with the tall order of bringing transparency and openness to an archdiocese that has long taken an antagonistic position towards survivors of clergy abuse.
Nelson Perez, the former Bishop of Cleveland, has been elevated to the Archbishop of Philadelphia by Pope Francis. He replaces Archbishop Charles Chaput, a man whose signature achievements included actively fighting against legislation that would benefit survivors and wantonly ignoring the church’s zero tolerance policy for priests accused of abuse.
Archbishop Perez has a lot of work in front of him. We have concerns that, as a product of St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia and as one who knows how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has repeatedly failed victims, he may adopt a “business as usual” approach. We hope for the complete opposite and that we see Archbishop Perez be true to his motto, "trust and hope," two things that survivors in Philadelphia have long found wanting in their Catholic leadership. The archbishop has the opportunity to, as he said many times in Cleveland, "do the right thing."
If Archbishop Perez wants to prove that he is different from his predecessor and is willing to clean up the archdiocese’s history of cover-up and antagonism towards survivors, we have several ideas of what he can do to help victims and advocates find trust in his leadership.
- First, he can release all files related to abusive clergy, nuns, brothers, and other church staff. Now that Pope Francis has declared that clergy abuse should no longer be held as a “pontifical secret,” Perez has the Pope’s blessing to be open and honest about these cases. He should release these files into a permanent repository on his website and publicize the information among parishioners and the public.
- Second, he can pledge to stop using church funds to fight against legislation like statute of limitations reform and instead come out in support of giving survivors an opportunity to have their day in court. He can order local parishes as well as groups like the Knights of Columbus to also cease spending money on lobbying efforts to defeat this needed reform and instead show public support for this legislation.
- Third, he can personally visit with survivors in his archdiocese, listening to their concerns and ideas. He can take those meetings to heart and act on the wishes of survivors instead of ignoring them like his predecessor.
There is much work to be done in Philadelphia. We will be waiting to see if Archbishop Perez is up to the task.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)