On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement on behalf of the Cardinal in response to the uproar over several comments from the Cardinal over the past several weeks that compared revelers in the 2012 Chicago Pride parade with the Ku Klux Klan.
Last week, the Cardinal seemed to be backing away from the statement, but Tuesday’s statement stoked the coals of controversy anew.
“The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church,” the statement, which sought to clarify the Cardinal’s statements, began. “When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.”
However, the next few sentences in the statement are causing more organizations to line up behind those LGBT groups that have already began calling on the Cardinal to resign.
“When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” the statement continued. “One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940’s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”
The Cardinal was already under fire for the initial Ku Klux Klan statement, last week.
“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 said on a Chicago Fox affiliate last week.
“Part of the issue here is that [Cardinal] George still needs to take responsibility for his comments, and apologize,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of Illinois LGBT group, the Civil Rights Agenda. “Until that happens, I don’t see that the community of Catholics here in Illinois may be able to heal. This is sort of an open wound now, and the fact that he’s only reiterating his stance is disheartening to say the least. Especially for LGBT Catholics.”
On whether or not relations were now souring between the LGBT community and the previously welcoming Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Martinez hopes that reconciliation is possible.
“He was the one who initiated these calls,” Martinez said of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s pastor Father Thomas Srenn’s calls for the parade start time to be changed so that Sunday morning services would not conflict. “Of course the hierarchy of the Church often decides how a priest should approach these issues. In the past he has been very supportive of the LGBT community, and they have a whole LGBT section of their parish that are in fellowship with each other, so I would venture to say that the church is still supportive. Hopefully the priest is still supportive of these issues, however these last few weeks its definitely not clear to me that he is.”
Last week, Tracy Baim, the editor of Chicago’s LGBT newspaper, The Windy City Times, took the unprecedented step to call for the Cardinal’s resignation.
“In comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan — in his remarks about the potential disruption and inconvenience of the new Pride Parade route and start time — Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize, and step down from his post,” Baim wrote in the editorial. “Other religious facilities have long endured the Pride Parade passing their doors on Pride Sunday, with no “anti-religious” problems reported in four decades. In fact, religious groups, including gay Catholics, have been a part of Pride almost since it first began. Ironically, the KKK did march against the Pride Parade in its early years, and many spiritual people helped counter their presence.”
The continuous refusal by the Archdiocese to disavow the comments, for for the Cardinal to apologized have sparked rage in the LGBT community in Chicago, as well as with their allies in the region and around the nation. The Cardinal, on the other hand, has only stood by his own statements.
“If you organize a parade that looks like parades we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshiping God, well then that’s the comparison,” he told a Chicago NBC affiliate this week.
“I’ve sort of held off calling for his resignation, but after the statement yesterday he’s showing that he’s completely disassociated the laypeople within the Catholic church,” Martinez told NBC in response Wednesday.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who took the Chicago Fox affiliate to task over re-airing the original comments on Christmas day, report that nearly 75% of Catholics are supportive of equal protections for LGBT people.
“In fact, there are a vast number of gay and transgender people who are devout Catholics,” the statement from GLAAD reads. “The LGBT movement is in no way anti-Catholic.”
The the letter reinforced the comparisons between the LGBT community and the Ku Klux Klan, the tone of the Cardinal’s statement, however, did shift abruptly to the conciliatory in the second paragraph.
“It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm,” it said. “These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free. I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade’s start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday.”