January 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm EDT | by Phil Reese
Chi. Cardinal George ‘truly sorry’ for comparing gays to KKK

cardinal francis george, chicago pride, gay news, gay politics dc

Cardinal Francis George (photo by Adam Bielawski via Wikimedia Commons)

After several weeks of trying to defend his remarks comparing Chicago’s annual gay pride festival to marches by the Ku Klux Klan, Chicago’s Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal George finally delivered an unequivocal apology for his statements during an interview with the Chicago Tribune.

“I am truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused,” George said in an interview with the Tribune, Saturday. “Particularly because we all have friends or family members who are gay and lesbian. This has evidently wounded a good number of people. I have family members myself who are gay and lesbian, so it’s part of our lives. So I’m sorry for the hurt.”

“I am incredibly pleased that Cardinal George has taken responsibility for his actions and has issued an apology for his comments comparing the LGBT Community to the KKK and the hurt those comments have caused,” executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda Anthony Martinez said in a statement Saturday. “A true leader can admit when they are wrong, and the Cardinal has set a good example of leadership today with his statement. Now, with this apology, the LGBT community and the Catholic community can begin to heal the divides that this has caused.”

“His actions will speak louder than words, and we will be paying attention to see if his words translate into acts of dignity and respect towards LGBT people,” Bernard Cherkasov, Chief Executive Officer of the state’s oldest and largest LGBT organization Equality Illinois, said in a statement Saturday.

In a follow-up statement, Martinez clarified that the Civil Rights Agenda “will continue to ensure that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is held responsible for the anti-gay positions it espouses and that the Catholic laity does not agree with.”

Recent data shows that Catholic laity may feel very different than the Cardinal.

According to the Civil Rights Agenda, 43 per cent of Catholics favor either allowing gay and lesbian people to marry or allowing them to form civil unions. If marriage for gay couples is defined as a civil marriage “like you get at city hall,” Catholic support for allowing gay couples to marry increases by 28 points, from 43 per cent to 71 per cent. 73 per cent of Catholics favor laws that would protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in the workplace and 60 per cent of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

The Cardinal made the comments in response to controversy over the updated route for the 2012 Chicago Pride parade, which will take floats and contingents down the street that Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic church calls home.

“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 in an interview that aired on Christmas.

By the time the statement was made, parade organizers had already come to an agreement with the pastor of that church — which sits adjacent to the Chicago ‘Boystown’ gay district — moving the parade start time later to avoid interrupting Sunday morning services.

When pressed by the Fox News reporter on whether or not the Cardinal thought the analogy was too strong, the Cardinal implied that the Ku Klux Klan and the LGBT community shared the same “rhetoric.”

“The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people,” the Cardinal continued. “Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.”

The Cardinal’s statements ignited a firestorm of criticism from LGBT and civil rights leaders around the nation. Despite the anger, George continued to defend his remarks.

“The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church,” a December 27th statement 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.”

“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.”

A protest of the Cardinal by LGBT rights was called off late Saturday just hours before it was to commence. The organization leading the protest, Gay Liberation Network, released a statement calling on angry activists to stand down, but also demanding more from the Cardinal.

Full statement follows:

Cardinal George’s “Apology” to Gays Doesn’t Get to the Heart of the Matter

Even though the Gay Liberation Network finds the “apology” of Francis George woefully inadequate, we nevertheless agree to call off the protest scheduled for January 8 (tomorrow, Sunday) at Holy Name Cathedral. While taking this action, we highlight our sharp disagreement with some LGBTgroups which previously backed the protest and now bubble over with undeserved praise for Cardinal George.

Francis George said in his “apology” that he never meant to smear” all gays and lesbians” with the KKK analogy. So, by implication, and by earlier statements, we take it that George did intend to liken some gays to the Klan, particularly some gay activists. In fact, his original Klan remark was directed at something he vaguely called the”gay liberation movement.” This sounds like a specific reference to our organization, the Gay Liberation Network, which he has previously singled out for attack when we have had the audacity to picket the Church hierarchy, including himself, in front of Holy Name Cathedral (George’s charges against us for being “anti-Catholic” have always been disingenuous and incendiary because he knows very well: Our disagreement is with him and other church leaders, not with the Catholic laity which, in poll after poll, backs equal rights for gays and lesbians).

In his apology, George claimed further that his KKK analogy was “motivated by fear for the church’s liberty.” This, too, is completely disingenuous. No one was challenging the church’s “liberty,” unless by this George means something like the right of the Catholic Church hierarchy to be free from frank and open criticism for its advocacy of discrimination against women and gays.

Finally, and most importantly–and missed by those individuals and groups who are now heaping undeserved praise on the Cardinal–Francis George’s “apology” contained not aword about the church leadership’s long-standing and aggressive opposition to all equal rights legislation for LGBT people, nationally and in the state of Illinois.

George’s anti-gay animus did not begin by his comparison of gay activists to the KKK. When the Catholic Church leadership, including George, ceases doing everything it can to oppose our equal participation in society, then we can accept an apology from that leadership

While canceling the January 8 protest, we are redoubling our efforts to secure participation in the Freedom to Marry Day demonstration scheduled for Sunday, February 12 at 10:30 AM in front of Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State Street, Chicago.


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