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.”
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.
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.
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.”