LGBTQ activists decry flag-burning priest: ‘No idea this hate was in his heart’

Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) speaks at a demonstration across the street from Resurrection Catholic Church on Wednesday, days after the Rev. Paul Kalchik burned a rainbow-cross flag on church grounds.

By Mitchell Armentrout

Two dozen LGBTQ activists rallied Wednesday night outside the Avondale church where a priest burned a rainbow flag last week against the orders of Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Calling the Rev. Paul Kalchik’s Sept. 14 flag-burning at Resurrection Catholic Church a “hate crime plain and simple,” Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) called on Pope Francis and Cupich “to send this hateful bigot packing.”

“I had no idea that this hate was in his heart for our community,” Mell said, noting she’s in regular contact with Kalchik about parking and community issues. “We know each other well. … I take it very personally, and it’s very hurtful.

“We’ve come so far as an LGBTQ community, and we have so many things to celebrate, and to think that this hatred is being spread in our neighborhood is not acceptable,” she said. “This isn’t who we are . . . LGBTQ families are a fabric of our neighborhood.”

Rev. Paul Kalchik burned this LGBTQ-friendly banner on church grounds last week, against the order of Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Mell said she was “encouraged” by Cupich telling Kalchik not to go forward with his plans announced Sept. 2 to burn the flag, which featured a rainbow cascading down over a cross. But she and other protesters called for the priest’s removal.

Rev. Paul Kalchik (Me thinks she doth protest too much.)

Kalchik did not return messages seeking comment before or after celebrating Mass on Wednesday.

Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Anne Maselli on Wednesday issued the same statement as a day earlier when news of the flag-burning gained momentum, saying “we are following up on the situation. As Catholics, we affirm the dignity of all persons.”

After the rally, a parishioner who have his name only as Patrick said he supported Kalchik and insisted the priest is a supporter of the LGBTQ community.

“The flag that he burnt was . . . meant for evil things,” he said. “It brought prey to predators. And we’re anti-predator priests.”

The man said reactions were mixed among parishioners.

“Some people are for it, some people don’t know what to think. It’s all over the board.”

Kalchik, 56, told the Chicago Sun-Times during an interview on Tuesday that the flag was forgotten in church storage for over a decade before he found it while cleaning last month. According to the priest, it was put on display for a few years after the St. Veronica and St. Francis parishes were merged to become Resurrection Parish in 1991.

The rainbow-cross banner is pictured on display during a 1991 Mass at Resurrection Parish.

Kalchik claimed three “bad priests” who preceded him at the church at 3043 N. Francisco were “big in promoting the gay lifestyle” before Cardinal Francis George ordained him as pastor there in 2007.

After the Windy City Times reported on Kalchik’s plan to burn the flag, the Archdiocese of Chicago told him “he could not move forward,” Maselli said.

But Kalchik went ahead and burned the flag “in a quiet way” during a closed ceremony on church grounds with seven parishioners on Friday, he said — without the knowledge of the archdiocese, Maselli said.

“What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?” Kalchik said in his office on Tuesday. “The people of this parish have been pretty resilient and put up with a lot of B.S.”

Kalchik — who says he was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child, and again by a priest when he began working for the church at 19 — claims the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the church is “definitely a gay thing,” a claim that Mell called “completely ludicrous.”

The flag-burning controversy drew the attention of prominent priest and author Rev. James Martin, who has written extensively on welcoming gay and lesbian Catholics into the church — a tone often shared by Cupich and Pope Francis.

“I cannot imagine a more homophobic act, short of beating up an LGBT person,” Martin tweeted on Tuesday. “What the pastor and some of his parishioners did shows the kind of hatred that LGBT Catholics still face — in their own church.”

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Parishioners defy Chicago Archdiocese, burn rainbow flag in ‘exorcism’ ceremony

A priest and parishioners from the Resurrection Parish in Chicago burned a rainbow pride flag that had once been prominently displayed in their Roman Catholic church.

Resurrection Catholic Church in Chicago

by Alexander Kacala

In a church bulletin posted this month, the Rev. Paul Kalchik, a Roman Catholic priest at Resurrection Parish in Chicago, announced that he would burn a rainbow pride flag that had once been prominently displayed at the church.

“On Saturday, September 29, the Feast of Saint Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we will burn, in front of the church, the rainbow flag that was unfortunately hanging in our sanctuary during the ceremonial first Mass as Resurrection parish,” Kalchik, who joined the church 11 years ago, wrote.

A footnote on his announcement stated, “US Church homosexual scandal is a sequel to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Rev. Paul Kalchik (The lady doth protest too much, methinks.)

When the Archdiocese of Chicago got wind of Kalchik’s plans to burn the rainbow flag, it told him he could not proceed. “We can confirm that the pastor has agreed not to move forward with these activities,” Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told The Windy City Times.

But despite the archdiocese’s request, Kalchik and some of his parishioners did move forward and burned the flag last Friday.

“We did so in a private way, a quiet way, so as not to bring the ire of the gay community down upon this parish,” Kalchik said in a lengthy interview Monday with NBC News. “It’s our full right to destroy it, and we did so privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”

“We put an end to a depiction of our Lord’s cross that was profane,” he added, noting the flag had a cross and a rainbow intertwined. To use the image of the cross as anything other than a “reminder of our Lord’s passion and death,” he said, “is what we consider a sacrilege.”

Kalchik said that the archdiocese had told him not to burn the flag in front of the church, as planned.

“So in a quiet way we took matters into our own hands and said a prayer of exorcism over this thing,” he said. “It was cut into seven pieces, so it was burned over stages in the same fire pit that we used for the Easter vigil mass.”

When asked about his views toward homosexuality, Kalchik was unequivocal, saying he’s “quite literal” when it comes to what the Bible says in Leviticus, Corinthians and Ephesians. Leviticus 20:13, according to the King James Bible, states: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality, called the Resurrection Parish’s flag burning “disrespectful and destructive.”

“Those involved in this desecration are violating the core values of the Catholic faith,” she told NBC News. “They are hijacking the parish to further an extremist agenda, and damaging the community in doing so.”

Duddy-Burke added that rainbow flags have come to symbolize a “sense of welcome” to LGBTQ people of faith and their families.

“When we see this symbol flying at our churches, we know this will be a place of welcome and affirmation and a place where God’s creativity is truly celebrated,” she said. “As Catholics, we work for the day when all of us feel fully welcomed in our church, and are able to participate in the sacramental life of our church as equals.”

In response to NBC News’ request for comment on the flag burning, Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago said the archdiocese was “unaware that this occurred.”

“We are following up on the situation,” Maselli said. “As Catholics we, the Archdiocese of Chicago, affirm the dignity of all persons.”

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The Catholic Church Is Sick With Sex

Outside of condemning adulterous behavior, Christ never said anything about whom you could love.

Pope Alexander VI

By Timothy Egan

One pope was a father of 10 through multiple mistresses, a man who purchased the papacy with mule-loads of silver. It is said that Alexander VI, the most debauched of the Borgia pontiffs, elected in 1492, even had an affair with one of his daughters.

Another pope contracted syphilis during his reign — a “disease very fond of priests, especially rich priests,” as the saying went in Renaissance times. That was Julius II, known as “Il terrible.”

A third pope, Pius IX, added Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and John Stuart Mill’s book on the free market economy to the Vatican’s List of Prohibited Books during his long reign in the 19th century. He also formalized the doctrine of papal infallibility.

What these Holy Fathers had in common was not just that they were badly flawed men putting forth badly flawed ideas: At the root of their moral failings is Catholicism’s centuries-old inability to come to grips with sex.

I say this as a somewhat lapsed, but certainly listening, Catholic educated by fine Jesuit minds and encouraged by the open-mindedness of Pope Francis. The big issue behind the budding civil war in a faith of 1.3 billion people — a rift that could plunge the church back into a medieval mind-set on sexuality — is the same old thing.

And most of the church’s backward teachings, dictated by nominally celibate and hypocritical men, have no connection to the words of Jesus.

If you’re going to strike at a pope, to paraphrase the line about taking down a king, you must kill him. Right-wing Catholics, those who think allowing gay members of the faith to worship with dignity is an affront to God, have just taken their best shot at Francis.

The attempted coup was disguised as an exposé by a conscience-stricken cleric, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. He claims that the pope must resign because he knew about the sexual abuse of young seminarians by a disgraced cardinal and did not defrock the predator.

It’s a fair point, and one that demands a full response from Francis. But if you read Viganò’s full 11-page letter, you see what’s really driving him and his ultraconservative cabal — an abhorrence of gay Catholics and a desire to return to the Dark Ages.

“The homosexual networks present in the church must be eradicated,” Viganò wrote. Those close to Francis, he claimed, “belong to the homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.” For theological authority, he cited the infamous 1986 letter to bishops condemning homosexuality as “a moral disorder.”

That instructive was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, designed to do to heretics what the Inquisition once did, without the stake-burning.

The bishop’s letter cites Old Testament sanctions against “sodomites” and a New Testament interpretation from St. Paul, who admitted he was not speaking with direct authority from the divine. St. Augustine, who loved sex and had plenty of it before he hated it, set the church template in the fifth century, saying, “Marriage is only one degree less sinful than fornication.”

What’s missing from these puritanical pronouncements, from then till now, is the figure at the center of the faith. That’s because, outside of condemning adulterous behavior, Christ never said anything about whom you could love. Nothing about homosexuals. Nothing about priestly celibacy or barring women from clerical ranks, for that matter.

Last year, while walking the thousand-year-old Via Francigena, I came upon many Catholics along that pilgrim’s path to Rome excited about the fresh air blowing through a Vatican that hadn’t opened a window in decades. The only cloud over these spiritual sojourners was the constant news about criminal clergy.

The conservatives would do nothing to fix this, but would make the church a global pariah. The old guard is infuriated by statements like the one Pope Francis made on Sunday. When asked how a parent should treat a gay child, he said, “Don’t condemn, have dialogue, listen.”

The way out of the present crisis is more light, less darkness and a few bold and dramatic moves. For starters, clerics should not be judging other clerics; let lay members, women and men, conduct the investigations.

Priestly celibacy should be optional. It’s an anachronism, certainly not one of the “infallible” truths, and may be one of the main reasons pedophilia is thick in clerical ranks. For the first thousand years of the church, married men could become priests, as they still can in the Greek Orthodox faith.

Women should be priests. Duh. When asked about this, Francis said only men could serve because Jesus chose only men as his apostles. This logic is flawed, as Jesus also chose Jews, and you don’t see a lot of them being invited into the priesthood.

A final alternative might be to look to the United States ambassador to the Vatican for moral guidance. That would be Callista Gingrich, who carried on a six-year affair with a married Newt Gingrich and became his third wife. In Rome, as always, hypocrisy is eternal.

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A Catholic Civil War?

Traditionalists want strict adherence to church doctrine. Liberals want the doctrine changed.

By Matthew Schmitz

Pope Francis must resign. That conclusion is unavoidable if allegations contained in a letter written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò are true. Archbishop Viganò, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States from 2011 to 2016, says that Pope Francis knew Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had abused seminarians, but nonetheless lifted penalties imposed on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI.

No matter what Francis does now, the Catholic Church has been plunged into all-out civil war. On one side are the traditionalists, who insist that abuse can be prevented only by tighter adherence to church doctrine. On the other side are the liberals, who demand that the church cease condemning homosexual acts and allow gay priests to step out of the closet.

Despite their opposing views, the two sides have important things in common. Both believe that a culture of lies has enabled predators to flourish. And both trace this culture back to the church’s hypocritical practice of claiming that homosexual acts are wrong while quietly tolerating them among the clergy.

As the liberal Vatican observer Robert Mickens writes, “There is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis.” James Alison, himself a gay priest, observes, “A far, far greater proportion of the clergy, particularly the senior clergy, is gay than anyone has been allowed to understand,” and many of those gay clergy are sexually active. Father Alison describes the “absurd and pharisaical” rules of the clerical closet, which include “doesn’t matter what you do so long as you don’t say so in public or challenge the teaching.”

The importance of not challenging church teaching is seen in the contrast of two gay-priest scandals of the Francis pontificate. The first is the case of Msgr. Battista Ricca, a Vatican diplomat who, while stationed in Uruguay, reportedly lived with a man, was beaten at a cruising spot and once got stuck in an elevator with a rent boy. (In Uruguay, the age of consent is 15.) These facts were concealed from Pope Francis, who in 2013 appointed Monsignor Ricca to a position of oversight at the Vatican Bank.

After Monsignor Ricca’s sins were exposed, Francis chose to stand by him, famously saying, “Who am I to judge?” Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa suffered a less happy fate. The priest, who worked at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, announced in 2015 that he was gay and had a male partner, and asked the church to change its teaching. He was immediately fired. Both Monsignor Ricca and Monsignor Charamsa had sinned, but only one had stepped out of line.

The other rule of the clerical closet is not violating the civil law — or at least not getting caught. Francis defended Monsignor Ricca by distinguishing between sins and crimes: “They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different.” This distinction provides cover for sex abuse. When countless priests are allowed to live double lives, it is hard to tell who is concealing crimes. Cardinal McCarrick was widely seen as “merely” preying on adult seminarians. Now he has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

Corrupt as this situation is, many Catholic leaders prefer it to the coming civil war. That seemed to be the attitude of Bishop Robert Barron when he called for an investigation that avoids “ideological hobby horses” like priestly celibacy and homosexuality. Bishop Barron is right to insist that accountability comes first. This is why anyone implicated in cover-up — up to and including Pope Francis — needs to resign.

But even if all the men at fault are held accountable, the hypocrisy will continue. The real danger the church faces is not ideological challenge from left or right but a muddled modus vivendi that puts peace before truth.

In 2005 the Vatican attempted to address this problem by instructing seminaries to turn away men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” But several Catholic leaders immediately indicated that they would not abide by this rule. Because Pope Benedict did nothing to enforce the decree, it became yet another symbol of Catholic hypocrisy.

According to Catholic teaching, every act of unchastity leads to damnation. But many bishops would rather save face than prevent the ruin of bodies and souls. If the church really does believe that homosexual acts are always and everywhere wrong, it should begin to live what it teaches. This would most likely mean enforcing the 2005 decree and removing clergy members caught in unchastity. If the church does not believe what it says — and there are now many reasons to think that it does not — it should officially reverse its teaching and apologize for centuries of pointless cruelty.

Either way, something must change. Marie Collins, a sex abuse survivor, warned that the crisis in the church is bound to get worse: “More and more countries are going to come forward, and as victims find their voices, it’s going to grow bigger.” Everyone who wants to end sex abuse should pray that the Catholic civil war does not end in stalemate.

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The Catholic Church is enabling the sex abuse crisis by forcing gay priests to stay in the closet

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former D.C. archbishop, waves to fellow bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

by Robert Mickens

The Catholic Church is being rocked — again — by high-level sexual abuse scandals, with allegations in recent weeks surfacing in Chile, Honduras and the District, home to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a once-super-popular cleric who is facing accusations by five males of harassment or abuse.

And again, people say they are shocked and outraged, which shows how Catholics still refuse to see that there is an underlying issue to these cases. It is the fact that almost all of them concern males — whether they are adolescents, post-pubescent teens or young men.

And while no adult who is of sound psychosexual health habitually preys on those who are vulnerable, there is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis. With such a high percentage of priests with a homosexual orientation, this should not be surprising.

But let me be very clear: psychologically healthy gay men do not rape boys or force themselves on other men over whom they wield some measure of power or authority.

However, we are not talking about men who are psychosexually mature. And yet the bishops and officials at the Vatican refuse to acknowledge this. Rather, they are perpetuating the problem, and even making it worse, with policies that actually punish seminarians and priests who seek to deal openly, honestly and healthily with their sexual orientation.

McCarrick’s case made me think of that of the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who in 2013 was removed from ministry after the surfacing of reports that he’d harassed and been involved with seminarians. That year, cardinals picked a pope, and O’Brien stepped back – or was pulled back by higher-ups.

Something I wrote then comes to mind amid the McCarrick scandal: O’Brien should not have recused himself from voting in the pope-picking “conclave,” as “only a naif could believe that he is the only man among the electors who has broken his solemn promise to remain celibate,” I wrote in the March 9, 2013, edition of the Tablet. “There are likely others. And even those who’ve done worse,” I warned.

Our problem in the Church is of the abuse of power, an abuse that happens as a result of homophobia that keeps gay men in the closet, bars them from growing up and results in distorted sexuality for many gay priests. We need to address this elephant in the rectory parlor.

Had O’Brien attended the 2013 conclave, I believe he could have looked several of his red-robed confreres who have also “fallen below the standards” directly in the eyes.

This is not to justify his conduct, but rather to say that the hypocrisy must end.

Incredibly, there are still priests and bishops who would deny or profess not to know that there are any homosexually oriented men in the ordained ministry. O’Brien and many other priests and bishops who have engaged in sex with men would probably not even identify as gay. They are products of a clerical caste and a priestly formation system that discourages and, in some places, even forbids them from being honest about their homosexual orientation.

Sadly, many of these men are or have become self-loathing and homophobic. Some of them emerge as public moralizers and denouncers of homosexuality, especially of the evil perpetrated on society by the so-called gay lobby. Unfortunately, O’Brien was, at times, one of the more brazen among them.

The Vatican knows all too well that there are large numbers of priests and seminarians with a homosexual orientation. But rather than encourage a healthy discussion about how gays can commit themselves to celibate chastity in a wholesome way, the Church’s official policies and teachings drive such men even deeper into the closet.

And like any other dark place lacking sunlight and air, this prevents normal development and festers mold, dankness, distortion and disease. Nothing kept in the dark can become healthy or flourish.

As recently as 2005, just a few months after the election of Benedict XVI, the Vatican issued a document that reinforced the “stay in the closet” policy by saying men who identified as gay should not be admitted to seminaries.

In fact, one of the prime authors of that document — Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a priest-psychotherapist from Paris — was recently stripped of his priestly faculties after being credibly accused of abusing seminarians and other young men in his care.

And yet there are gay priests who have found a way to wholesome self-acceptance of their sexuality. Some of them are sexually active, but many live celibately. Arguably, they are among the best and most compassionate pastors we have in our Church.

Their more conflicted gay confreres — and all gay people, indeed the entire Church — would benefit greatly if these healthy gay priests could openly share their stories. But their bishops or religious superiors have forbidden them from writing or speaking publicly about this part of their lives.

This, too, only encourages more dishonesty and perpetuates a deeply flawed system that will continue to produce unhealthy priests.

O’Brien admitted he was sexually active with adults.

Some of the things O’Brien’s three accusers alleged he did to them (similar to some of the accusations against McCarrick) certainly fall under the category of sexual harassment. And because these alleged actions occurred with people in his charge when he was a seminary official or bishop, they constitute an abuse of power.

But this should not be confused with the sexual abuse of minors, which some people have deliberately tried to do.

That, by the way, is just another effort to refuse to deal with the issue of homosexuality and a clericalist, homophobic culture in the Church.

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