Cardinal Francis George angered many LGBT activists in Chicago and beyond, when Fox News Chicago quoted him comparing gay liberation to the Klu Klux Klan.
"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 said, weighing in on a debate the start time of Chicago's Pride Parade.
The parade, recently re-routed, would have gone past Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church during services. Organizers pushed back the time to accommodate the church, but not before the cardinal had his say.
Local and national groups responded to the remarks in a flurry of press releases.
Equally Blessed statement: "In expressing fears that a joyful, celebratory gay pride parade could erupt into anti-Catholic violence, Cardinal Francis George has demeaned and demonized LGBT people in a manner unworthy of his office. In suggesting that the Catholic hierarchy has reason to fear LGBT people in the same way that blacks, Jews, Catholics and other minorities had reason to fear the murderous nightriders of the Ku Klux Klan, he has insulted the memory of the victims of the Klan's violence and brutality.
In raising the specter of violent intimidation, the cardinal neglects the fact that Catholics in this country are already beaten, bullied and murdered due to their attackers' attitudes about human sexuality. But many of those Catholics are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender."
Chris Pett, president of Dignity/Chicago: "The fact is the LGBT community is not the enemy nor have we called the Catholic Church our enemy. This is another attempt to make the church appear to be the victim when so many LGBT people and youths have been victimized by the church's exclusion and intolerance. As LGBT Catholics, we at Dignity/Chicago have experienced both great love and acceptance in the Catholic Church, but also dishonesty and condemnation from many of our churches leaders. If there is hostility in the gay community toward the Church, then the remedy from the Church is love."
Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda: "The Cardinal's remarks are offensive and bombastic. To equate the LGBT movement for civil rights with that of a terrorist organization is incredibly offensive. I challenge the Cardinal to show me how these remarks are Christian… Comments such as these only further perpetuate the hate-filled rhetoric that surrounds the public and religious debate with regards to LGBT personhood and relationships, as opposed to opening up an honest and meaningful dialogue."
Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry: "Part of the fear may be due to the fact that the hierarchy senses they are losing the argument on LGBT equality. I do not think that these men are evil. I believe them to be motivated by good and trying to do good, but that pressure is getting the best of them and making them act in irrational ways. I am not excusing their behavior or statements at all, but I think it is important to understand what may be behind these statements. Regardless of the motivation, an apology is needed in both cases."
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out: "Cardinal George's outrageous comparison of the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan was so degrading and hurtful that apologizing will not be sufficient. George's only road to redemption is handing in his resignation. If he has a shred of dignity and a shard of class he will immediately step down."
Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith Program: "Cardinal George's horrific comparison of the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan drives an unnecessary wedge between Catholics and the hierarchy. This is a sacred time of year for many people of faith, a time when we should be creating and cherishing unity in our communities not casting about dangerous and divisive rhetoric. As people of faith we should expect better from our leaders."
Anne Underwood, co-founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality: "As a lay Catholic, I am profoundly saddened that Cardinal Francis George defiles his office by comparing our LGBT family, friends and fellow Catholics to the Ku Klux Klan. His rhetoric rings particularly off-key coming the week before Catholics celebrate the birth of Christ. As a Catholic who responds to our historic Church teachings to stand with all marginalized people, I work for freedom and fairness for my LGBT friends. I feel dismissed and betrayed by our hierarchy, but not by our God, for whom Cardinal George did not speak."
Rev. Eric Lee, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: "I have spent most of my adult life engaged in the civil rights struggle for African American people who have been terrorized by racist Klan violence. I am insulted by the comparison of the Klan to the current LGBT movement. When we distort the history of terror for cheap political aims, we only inflict pain on those whose lives have been scarred by the Klan."
GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued this statement:
Nearly 75% of Catholics are supportive of equal protections for LGBT people. In fact, there are a vast number of gay and transgender people who are devout Catholics. The LGBT movement is in no way anti-Catholic.
GLAAD stands with the Chicago-based Civil Rights Agenda and the Catholic group Equally Blessed in condemning Cardinal George's remarks and calling for fair and accurate reporting on the LGBT and Catholic communities.
"The vast majority of Catholics agree that LGBT people are as welcome in the church as anyone else," said Ross Murray, Director of Religion, Faith and Values with GLAAD. "At at time when Christians around the world are celebrating love and peace, the Cardinal's remarks about the KKK seem particularly out of touch."
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
See related coverage at the links:
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
After Catholic Church pressure, Pride Parade start time reverts to noon
News posted Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times