Cardinal George defends comments comparing pride parade to KKK

Photo: Adam Bielawski

Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, issued a statement early Wednesday, defending controversial statements he made last week in which he equated the gay pride parade to Ku Klux Klan marches.

In the statement, the cardinal continued to compare the pride parade with demonstrations by the KKK, and did not satisfy demands from the LGBT community for an apology.

George decried violence and harassment inflicted upon gays and lesbians and applauded the compromise organizers made with church leaders to revert the kickoff time to noon so as not to conflict with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s Sunday Mass.

“The Cardinal is obviously avoiding the calls for his resignation and apology,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “His statement not only lays the blame for his comments squarely on the parade organizers by saying they ‘invited’ his comments, but he does not take responsibility for his brazen and hurtful words. Additionally, he only further asserts his claims by stating that the KKK is not an organization that should be emulated.”

The statement:

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

It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm. 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.”

On Dec. 21, Cardinal George was asked during a taping of Fox Chicago Sunday about his thoughts on the 2012 Chicago Gay Pride Parade passing Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church at the same time as the popular church’s Sunday Mass. George initially said that he agrees with the church’s leaders that it would disrupt their Sunday services and block parishioners from attending, and continued with his controversial comparison to the KKK.

“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” George said, and stood by his words when the Fox host suggested they might be “a little strong.”

“It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric,” said George. “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.”

News of the cardinal’s remarks launched a firestorm of backlash from the LGBT community, including calls for his resignation.

On Dec. 25, George slightly backtracked on from his comments in an interview on ABC 7 Chicago news (WLS-TV).

“Obviously, it’s absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan,” he told ABC 7. “But if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshiping God, well then that’s the comparison. But it’s not with people and people – it’s parade-parade.”

The parade has since been rescheduled to avoid blocking parishioners from reaching the church. Meanwhile, Cardinal George continues to face backlash from LGBT organizations and leaders.

Calls made to the Archdiocese of Chicago for additional comments were not returned.