Welcome to Philadelphia, Archbishop Nelson Perez. You are the breath of fresh air that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia needed.
I say that after spending a great deal of time last week researching Perez. He’s quite impressive. He has a pastoral background, and more importantly, for Philadelphia’s Catholic LGBT Community, seems willing to engage dialogue, something his predecessor, Archbishop Chaput, was always against. I learned all this in telephone calls between myself and the executive directors of both DignityUSA, the national LGBT Catholic organization, and New Ways Ministry, which educates and advocates for justice and equality for LGBT Catholics. It seems to be a reconciliation within the larger church and civil communities. We all felt a certain optimism with Perez’s appointment.
Between us, we discovered that he has a very limited record on LGBT issues. That’s exactly what it should be unless you were an outspoken homophobe like Chaput. Perez seems to be patient in trying to understand our issues and how that fits into Catholic teachings. That’s a long process and one that Pope Francis has started. Chaput has been an agitator to the Pope on this issue, going to the extreme at times. He was unwilling to look beyond his homophobia.
Unfortunately, because of that issue, Archbishop Perez inherits Chaput’s legacy which includes: a policy of firing openly gay or married Catholics from archdiocese schools, financially supporting what is a Catholic conversion-therapy training class for priests, not recognizing LGBT families, fighting adoption by LGBT parents. And, maybe the worst one, Chaput fought against changes in statute of limitation laws in Pennsylvania in order to keep his abuser priests from being charged with lawsuits. He continues to further victimize those abused by his priests.
Hopefully, much of that will be in the past, and the church under the leadership of Archbishop Perez will be more like 2020 than 1950. With the appointment of Archbishop Perez, Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants a church that is diverse and inclusive.
One last point that highlights the difference between Perez and Chaput. While Chaput supported his own type of conversion therapy, a practice banned in 19 states, Perez and the Cleveland Archdiocese has an LGBT family ministry outreach. It’s easy to see who is better for our community and for the Catholic Church.
Welcome to Philly, Archbishop Perez.