In an agreement reached between organizers and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, the start time of the 2012 Pride Parade has been moved back to its original noon kickoff time.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel had asked organizers and 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney to reconsider recently announced changes to the parade, which would have passed the doorway of the church during service. The changes included moving the start time of the parade from noon to 10 a.m. to curb public drinking.
"We met with representatives from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church last week to hear the parish's concerns about the proposed changes to the 2012 Gay Pride Parade," said Tunney in a statement. "We discussed moving the start time back to 12:00 noon to help accommodate Sunday services along the parade route. After consulting with the various city departments, we believe this is an agreeable compromise to help keep the parade safe and manageable while respecting the diversity of our neighborhood."
The parade will still take place on the last Sunday in June. Last year's event attracted more than 750,000 people, resulting in what many felt was an overcrowding of the neighborhood.
Several fist fights broke out along the Parade route in 2011, and in one incident, a group of seven people jumped on an SUV until its windshield cracked. Further, so many people attempted to sardine into the area at Belmont and Halsted, that crowds overtook the route, and the last 50 floats were diverted by police.
Responding to such issues in 2011, Tunney, Richard Pfieffer who organizes the parade, and city officials met and re-wrote the parade route, also moving the start time up two hours in hopes that parade-goers would be less likely to drink at 10 a.m. than at noon.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church worried the early start time and new route would make it difficult for parishioners to get to church that day. The church launched a petition and phone campaign to Tunney on the matter.
"The Sunday morning for us is sacred," Father Thomas Srenn of Mount Carmel, told Windy City Times. Srenn said that contrary to rumors, the church would not protest parade. Rather he said, he wanted organizers to reconsider the start time.
Srenn said that the agreement satisfies his church's concerns. "It was a good and reasonable solution that we all came to," said Srenn.
But the debate turned ugly in recent days when Fox News reported that Cardinal Francis George weighed in and compared Pride to a Klan gathering.
The Cardinal told Fox News Chicago that he too disapproves of the changes.
"You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism," he said.
In a press release, LGBT Catholic organization Rainbow Sash Movement sounded off against the cardinal's comments.
"Cardinal George wants to promote a doubled standard when it comes to the Gay Pride Parade," the statement read. "One only has the look at the Chicago Marathon, and negative impact that race has on parishes such as Assumption Parish, St. Joseph's Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Michael's Parish just to name a few."
It is not the first time that the LGBT community has sparred with the cardinal. In 2004, his Chicago home was the target of a protest in coordination with a national Valentine's Day demonstration for LGBT rights, after the Vatican took a harsh stance against LGBT families in 2003.
In response, the cardinal asked to meet with members of Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach Chicago ( AGLO ) . The result was a Sunday mass of 400 people with AGLO. But some of the cardinal's statements struck a nerve with worshippers, and a dozen of them walked out.
"Marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman, not something the states can change," George said at the mass. "In other instances the church describes homosexual actions in terms that are offensive to many in the gay community and many outside of it as well. I believe that such descriptions are valid ... But if I do not believe the church's understanding of human sexuality, accept her moral teaching, believing it to be true, I will resign as archbishop, as a matter of my own integrity."
Many said that George's recent comments went much further, and some argued that his recent statement ignored the strong presence of Chicagoans who are both Catholic and LGBT-identified.
Srenn declined to comment on the cardinal's remarks. "I don't want the issue to get bigger than what we're trying to do here," he said.
Srenn said he has not been in direct communication with the cardinal regarding Pride issues. He said that he notified the cardinal's press office when news of the debate between the church and parade organizers spread early in December.
"It really was a local matter more than anything else," he said.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel hosts AGLO, and Srenn said that reservations about the event had nothing to do with the content of the parade.
Openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris called the cardinal's comment "unfortunate." Still, he said he wants to separate Cardinal George's comments from others involved in the conversation.
"No one from Mount Carmel said anything like [ the cardinal's remark ] ," Harris said.
Harris added that many people he spoke with did not like the new proposed time for the Pride Parade.
According to ABC 7 News, George toned down his controversial sentiments on Christmas day.
"Obviously, it's absurd to say that the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan," he said. "But if you organize a parade that looks like parades we've had in our past because it stops us from worshipping God, well then that's a comparison, but it's not people-people - it's parade-parade."
In recent days, many LGBT activists have called on George to step down. In mid-January, George will offer to just that, but not because of recent controversies involving LGBT people. The cardinal turns 75 at on Jan. 16, and it is standard procedure for Catholic clergy to offer to their resignations at that time.
Still, George could remain in his position for much longer. The pope will make the final call as to when George's resignation is accepted.
Cardinal George greets members of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach at mass Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004 at Mt. Carmel on Belmont. George sought out AGLO for a meeting Dec. 14, 2003, and from that meeting came the appearance in early 2004. He performed mass and then greeted people from AGLO after at a reception. His request for outreach was a direct result of protests by Dignity/Chicago and others against harsh wording against gays and gay families the summer of 2003 from the Vatican. Photo by Tracy Baim
Also please see related coverage at links below.
VIEWPOINT Cardinal George and the KKK: Religious extremists live in Midwest, not just Middle East
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times
Cardinal George compares Pride Parade to Klan gathering
News update posted Dec. 21, 2011
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times