On January 23, 2020 Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and appointed Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez as his successor. Archbishop Perez was officially installed on February 18th, leaving a vacancy at the helm of the Cleveland Diocese.
In the days following the announcement, FutureChurch developed a survey for Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland to express their needs and desires for Perez's replacement. And based on the results of this survey, Cleveland Catholics want a bishop who will seek justice, restore trust and credibility, and bring Catholics in the diocese together.
FutureChurch has forwarded all of the anonymous results onto Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who will play a prominant role in determining which candidates are presented to officials at the Congregation for Bishops and Pope Francis for consideration. View all of the results here.
The first two questions of the survey were open ended, giving Clevelanders an opportunity to express themselves in their own words, and yielded perhaps the most interesting information.
Question 1: "What qualities should the next bishop of Cleveland exhibit?" (each respondent was permitted to list up to 3 qualities). While the responses reflect a diversity of opinion and ways of expressing that opinion, a few words were mentioned more than others.
Pastor/pastoral was the most mentioned word, named 31 times. Open/listen/listening was mentioned 24 times. Compassion/compassionate was raised 18 times. And unsurpisingly women were brought up in 13 of the responses. Below are "word clouds" for each of the three text fields respondents could have filled in:
Question 2: "What is the most pressing challenge or opportunity the next bishop of Cleveland must address?" Again, because of the open-ended nature of the question, a variety of opinions were expressed in a variety of ways. But, looking at the individual responses reveals a few obvious trends, even if no single challenge or opportunity was raised in a majority of the responses.
- Cleveland Catholics are concerned about issues of social justice, with 22% of responses explicitly naming issues like poverty, income inequality, immigration, environmental justice, and solidarity. A few responses even specifically called out the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' current approach to guiding voters, saying that the next bishop of Cleveland should help both priests and lay people discern the wide range of life issues before the electorate.
- Cleveland Catholics also want a bishop who will continue the process of restoring trust and credibility in diocesan leadership in the wake of both the clergy sexual abuse and coverup crisis and Bishop Lennon's massive and misguided parish reconfiguration that Bishop Perez began upon his arrival in September 2017. 17.6% of responses explicitly used words like "trust," "credibility," "accountability," and "healing." At least one respondent advised that continuity and a long-term appointment would allow for building the kind of relationship that such a restoration would require.
- Cleveland Catholics are ready to build an inclusive, dialogical Church that is powered by active lay participation and leadership: At least 17.6% of responses addressed empowering lay people and lay participation in the life of the Church. Another 11% called out clericalism/hierarchicalism or other issues related to inadequate priestly formation. 16.5% of responses spoke of inclusivity and unity, bridging the divide between "conservative" and "progressive" Catholics, welcoming of all God's children. 10% of responses specifically brought up roles for women, including women priests, women deacons, and women preachers.
Questions 3-10 asked Clevelanders to respond on a scale from "strongly agree to strongly disagree" on several issues, which are admittedly important to FutureChurch and our membership. Given the responses to the open-ended questions it is no surprise that the vast majority (85% or more) responded that they strongly agree with each of the statements.