Chicago’s Bishop Joseph N. Perry to lead U.S. bishops’ anti-racism committee

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry. | Credit: CatholicChicago/YouTube

Longtime Black Catholic leader Bishop Joseph N. Perry, an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, is the new chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Perry, 75, succeeds Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville, Kentucky, who served two terms as chairman. Fabre, who became archbishop of Louisville in March 2022, requested that a new chairman be named, the USCCB said in a May 10 announcement.

Perry will be the third chairman of the committee since its creation.

In 2017, then-USCCB president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston formed the anti-racism committee to “address the sin of racism and the urgent need to come together to find solutions.” It was established in response to increasing racial tensions and white nationalist activism. DiNardo announced the committee after white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a 20-year-old man drove a car into a counterprotest, killing one and injuring 19.

The committee played a key role in the bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.” The letter lamented the “persistence of racism” and said it “has no place in the Christian heart.”

The committee’s new chairman brings significant experience to the role.

Perry also chairs the USCCB Committee on African-American Catholics, on which he has served since 2004, according to his biography on the Archdiocese of Chicago website. He is a member of several other USCCB committees and vice president of the board of the Black Catholic Congress. For more than 15 years, he has served as national chaplain for the Knights of St. Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, a historically Black Catholic fraternal organization headquartered in New Orleans. He holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America.

Perry was born in Chicago in 1948 and attended high school there. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1975. Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1998.

CNA sought comment from the Archdiocese of Chicago but did not receive a response by publication.

Previous committee chairs have spoken out on the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the resulting protests. They also responded to the anti-immigrant, racist mass murder targeting Hispanics in El Paso in August 2019.

The bishops’ anti-racism committee authored the 2019 illustrated children’s book Everyone Belongs,” from Loyola Press, which has won several book prizes.

The committee’s section on the USCCB website provides prayers against racism and practical resources to help eradicate racism. The committee has marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day and has helped create resources for the Sept. 9 feast day of St. Peter Claver as an annual day of prayer for peace within communities.

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