Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez made the following oral statement in a call with media following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 opinion in Fulton, et al. v. City of Philadelphia.
I am deeply grateful to the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States for their willingness to hear this matter and for their ultimate opinion.
Today’s decision from our nation’s highest court is a profound one that rings loudly in Philadelphia and reverberates throughout the country. It brings light and relief for children in need of loving homes and for the heroic foster parents who open their hearts and doors to care for them.
The ruling issued today is also a crystal clear affirmation of First Amendment rights for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all charitable ministries in the United States who are inspired by their faith to serve the most vulnerable among us.
I was recently asked if today was one of victory and for celebration. It’s certainly a victory for children in need and it’s fitting for us to celebrate the example of foster parents who give of themselves freely.
So, today we celebrate foster mothers like Sharonell Fulton, who has cared for over 40 foster children over the past 25 years, and Toni Simms-Busch, who has adopted two young boys in partnership with Catholic Social Services. We also lift up the memory of Cecilia Paul, whose legacy of selfless devotion to children is memorialized in a decision to protect the ministry that helped her save lives. Without their tireless and selfless efforts, today would not have been possible.
The Church in Philadelphia has done much more than provide foster care for over 200 years. We continue to pioneer programs aimed at breaking the cycles of violence and poverty that have plagued immigrant and minority families for decades. We have also been hard at work to alleviate the suffering brought forth by COVID-19. In the last year, our charitable programs have provided more than a million meals in the greater Philadelphia region to those struggling with food insecurity. We’ve also adapted our services so we can continue providing legal assistance for migrants and refugees, distribution of diapers and formula for mothers, and forums for important discussion and healing in the wake of racial tensions.
The Catholic Church in Philadelphia is steadfast in its commitment to continue serving the temporal and spiritual needs of all — now and for the long term. We have partnered successfully with city government to serve the people of Philadelphia many times, and we look forward to continuing a fruitful partnership in the future.
Today’s ruling allows our ministries to continue serving those in need, for foster families to find an agency that shares and reflects their faith, and for foster children to find a loving home. It also protects our enshrined right to religious freedom and celebrates the rich diversity of religious beliefs in the United States.
I have often said that we are a people of hope. It is my personal hope that today’s decision makes it abundantly clear that religious ministries cannot be forced to abandon their beliefs as the price for ministering to those in need. We can all live and work peacefully, side-by-side, to create a better and brighter future for all of our children.
Thank you for your time and may God bless you.
Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez, D.D.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
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