Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, has issued an apology for “the hurt” he caused when he likened the Gay Pride Parade to Ku Klux Klan demonstrations during a taping of “Fox Chicago Sunday” last month.
“I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan,” George said in the statement. “Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are.”
Local activists and leaders responded shortly after the apology appeared on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s website.
“It’s a very cowardly way to deliver a statement,” said Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network. “He not only made the statement twice, but three times, and he didn’t even make the apology to the people who his original statement was directed to.”
“I am underwhelmed,” Thayer told Chicago Phoenix.
George went on to say that he made the statements to defend the church’s liberty, and that he feels sorrow and sympathy for those who were offended by what he said.
“This is really fantastic news,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I am actually really pleased that the cardinal is taking responsibility for his hurtful words. This will really allow the divides created by his harmful remarks between the Catholic Church and the LGBT community.”
“I am glad to see that the Catholic Church has finally apologized for their offensive and hurtful comments,” said Jacob Mesiter, President of the Civil Rights Agenda in addition to what Martinez said. “I hope this is a sign that the LGBT community will be able to enter into productive dialogue with the church.”
“I am glad that Cardinal George has reconsidered his remarks,” said State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). “Part of what makes America great is that the Catholic Church, and all faiths, are guaranteed Freedom of Religion by our Constitution. Similarly, the LGBT community will continue to struggle to achieve Equal Treatment Under the Law guaranteed by the our Constitution. In our democracy there will be philosophical, cultural and faith-based differences. However, we should always address these differences with respect and tolerance, and not attacks based on fear.”
George’s controversial comments came as a response to a question posed by a “Fox Chicago Sunday” host regarding the 2012 Chicago Gay Pride Parade route, which was set to pass by a Catholic church at the same time as Sunday Mass. The cardinal objected to the parade route and time because of the church’s concerns that parishioners would be blocked from attending the services that day.
He went on to tell the show’s host, ”You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
The 2012 Pride Parade has since been rescheduled to start at 12 noon as compromise with church leaders.
Immediately after news broke of the cardinal’s comments during the show’s taping Dec. 21, LGBT groups and activists reacted, and the firestorm of backlash continued when George reiterated his comparison just days later.
On Monday, Gay Liberation Network and the Chicago chapter of Rainbow Sash Movement announced plans to protest against George outside of Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. Wabash Ave., alongside the church’s 12 p.m. Sunday Mass.
Following the cardinal’s apology, though, some groups have pulled out from the planned demonstration.
GLN co-founder, Andy Thayer, said that his organization still plans to be there on Sunday. Lair Scott, a local activist, who originally called for the action, said that he will not be attending.
In a statement, Joe Murray, the executive director of Rainbow Sash Movement said that his organization’s plan to join the demonstration is cancelled.
“I read the Cardinal’s Apology on the Archdiocesan web site,” said Murray. “The Cardinal spoke directly to us in sincere language. We got what we ask for and that was an apology.”
TCRA also plans to not attend the protest now that George has apologized, said Martinez.
In recent weeks, several groups have called for George to apologize, and Truth Wins Out, a Burlington, Vt.-based LGBT advocacy organization, demanded that he resign.
TWO also placed a full-page ad in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune calling for an apology and his resignation.
Calls placed to the Archdiocese of Chicago were not returned Friday, but when asked about the plans to protest outside of Holy Name Cathedral, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese said they had no comment.
Read the full statement here: