“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” the Cardinal told Fox News Chicago on Sunday.
“That’s a little strong analogy, isn’t it? Ku Klux Klan?” the Fox reporter said to the Cardinal in response.
“It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric,” he responded. “The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.”
The Rev. Eric Lee, Executive Director for the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — an organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — was quick to speak out against Cardinal George’s remarks.
“I have spent most of my adult life engaged in the civil rights struggle for African American people who have been terrorized by racist Klan violence,” Lee said in a statement. “I am insulted by the comparison of the Klan to the current LGBT movement. When we distort the history of terror for cheap political aims, we only inflict pain on those whose lives have been scarred by the Klan.”
The Pride parade controversy stems from a planned change to the route and start time of the annual LGBT Pride parade, which attracts over 750,000 people to the north side Chicago neighborhood every year.
After police complained about overcrowding and violence along the parade route in 2011, organizers planned to change the event’s route, and moved the start time up to 10:00am to noon to curb morning drinking.
The new route, however, takes the parade down Belmont St. in front of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church during crowded Sunday mass. Pastor Father Thomas Srenn and the church asked parade organizers to make changes to avoid a collision between the parade festivities and the Sunday service. Parade organizers — including openly gay city alderman Tom Tunney whose district the parade takes place in — and the parish agreed to changes that move the parade start time back to the original 12:00pm.
Fr. Srenn told the Windy City Times that the agreement satisfies Mt. Carmel’s concerns. “It was a good and reasonable solution that we all came to.”
According to the Windy City Times, Our Lady of Mount Carmel hosts the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, and Srenn told the paper that the parish’s reservations about the event “had nothing to do with the content of the parade.”
In a statement this week, openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris, whose district includes the planned route, lamented the Cardinal’s “unfortunate choice of words.”
“It probably will provoke other unfortunate words [from some gay activists],” Harris said.
Cardinal George and the Archdiocese of Chicago have clashed on multiple issues this year, including the passage and implementation of Civil Unions in Illinois, and same-sex foster and adoptive parents, which resulted in Catholic Charities ending foster care placement services in the state in order to avoid being forced to place children with otherwise qualified same-sex couples, which the church objects to.
“Cardinal George’s horrific comparison of the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan drives an unnecessary wedge between Catholics and the hierarchy,” Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion & Faith Program, Dr. Sharon Groves said in a statement. “This is a sacred time of year for many people of faith, a time when we should be creating and cherishing unity in our communities — not casting about dangerous and divisive rhetoric. As people of faith we should expect better from our leaders.”
“As a lay Catholic, I am profoundly saddened that Cardinal Francis George defiles his office by comparing our LGBT family, friends and fellow Catholics to the Ku Klux Klan,” said Anne Underwood, co-founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality. “His rhetoric rings particularly off-key coming the week before Catholics celebrate the birth of Christ. As a Catholic who responds to our historic Church teachings to stand with all marginalized people, I work for freedom and fairness for my LGBT friends. I feel dismissed and betrayed by our hierarchy, but not by our God, for whom Cardinal George did not speak.”
“The Cardinal’s remarks are offensive and bombastic,” stated Anthony Martinez, executive director of Illinois LGBT group The Civil Rights Agenda. “To equate the LGBT movement for civil rights with that of a terrorist organization is incredibly offensive. I challenge the Cardinal to show me how these remarks are Christian.
“The Civil Rights Agenda has tried to make inroads with the Archdiocese many times through The Faith Project. Throughout Illinois we have heard from and work with many LGBT individuals who are practicing Catholics that only seek compassion and acceptance from their faith community. Comments such as these only further perpetuate the hate-filled rhetoric that surrounds the public and religious debate with regards to LGBT personhood and relationships, as opposed to opening up an honest and meaningful dialogue.”
Other LGBT leaders around the nation reacted to the Cardinal’s comments with even stronger language, including calls for his resignation.
“Cardinal George’s outrageous comparison of the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan was so degrading and hurtful that apologizing will not be sufficient,” said Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director. “George’s only road to redemption is handing in his resignation. If he has a shred of dignity and a shard of class he will immediately step down.”
Online petition site, Change.org has already posted a petition calling for the Cardinal’s resignation. The petition is more than half way to its goal of 500 signatures.