Cardinal Francis George, head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, said Friday that he was sorry for comparing that city's huge Gay Pride Parade to a Ku Klux Klan march. He apologized, in a statment on the Archdiocese website, for the pain his words caused and that he had been fearing for "the church's liberty":
''During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year's Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.
''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. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. 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. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.
''I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church's liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.
''Francis Cardinal George, OMI''
''I read the Cardinal’s Apology on the Chicago Archdiocesan web site. The Cardinal spoke directly to us in sincere language. Our Board of the Directors has instructed me to immediately call for a cancellation of planned demonstration outside of the Cathedral on Sunday. We got what we ask for and that was an apology. I will be in communication with the Gay Liberation Network requesting that they also honor our call to cancel demonstration.
''I want to thank the Cardinal for his sincere words, and ask the Chicago Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender community to receive this apology as a sincere attempt at reconciliation. I believe we can now put this matter behind us.''
Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out also seems to have accepted George's apology:
''We called for Cardinal George's resignation but we think remorse is a positive step in the right direction. It is gratifying to see the Cardinal take personal responsibility for the hurt he has caused and we hope this incident leads to improving relations with the LGBT community.''
Cardinal George, the former president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had been under fire for two weeks for escalating a dispute between Chicago's Pride Parade and churches that would be holding Sunday services at the same time. Parade organizers announced in October that because of an "increase in spectators at both LGBT and non-LGBT parades," the street route needed to be changed, and the parade had to start at an earlier time, 10 a.m.
The Cardinal reportedly objected to those changes, saying he had not been consulted. He claimed that parishoners attending services during those hours would have difficulty or be prevented from attending mass. He then told Fox Chicago Sunday:
"I go with the pastor [of Our Lady of Mount Carmel]. I mean, he's telling us that he wouldn't have church services on Sunday if that's the case. You know, you don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against the power system. So, if that's what's happening, and I don't know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor's position on that. And I think that's a matter of concern for all of us.... But you take a look at the rhetoric... the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the Gay Liberation people. Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church."
He then tried to defend that remark with another statement that he had posted to the Archdiocese website (Fox Chicago):
''When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940's, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.''
He tried to clarify that remark by telling ABC 7 he was talking about parades not people:
"Obviously, it's absurd to say that the gay and lesbian community are in Ku Kluxers. But if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we've had in our past, because it stops us from worshipping God, well, then that's the comparison. But it's not with people and people. It's with parade and parade.''
A statement from Chicago Pride said that organizers met with representative of the church in question and agreed to move the start time of the parade back to 12 noon.
A different absurd statement was released by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops under George's leadership. The writers of "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan" claimed that same-sex unions posed "a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking" at the source of humanity, and that "recognition" of gay relationships was assumably bad for children and all people, education, culture and "religious freedom."
Catholic leaders have been knocking heads with gay marriage enthusiasts for years over this alleged detriment to "religious freedom." Battles with regional archdioceses and branches of Catholic Charities have flared up across America over gay marriage laws. Accusations are circulating from some in the gay community that one political antagonist, The National Organization for Marriage, is a "lay front" for the USCCB and for the Vatican. A Facebook post from one DC-based organization called Catholics for Equality read:
''Excellent analysis by Sarah Posner of the U.S.bishops' so-called Religious Freedom campaign. This campaign will be the bishops' entrance into the 2012 elections and may prove to become a Catholicity litmus test for Catholic politicians, as well as a test for the presidential candidates. Already the National Organization for Marriage is using religious freedom/liberty as part of their anti-LGBT framing. In fact NOM is a lay front for the USCCB.''