Chicago's Cardinal Francis E. George says he compared gay activists to the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan out of “fear for the Church's liberty,” not as a blanket accusation against homosexuals.
“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,” Cardinal George said in a statement posted on the Archdiocese of Chicago's website Jan. 6. “I do not believe that; it is obviously not true.”
He acknowledged that he had used an “inflammatory” analogy during a December 2011 episode of Fox Chicago Sunday, when he said he did not want the homosexual pride movement to “morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
The analogy was prompted by a question about the 2012 Gay Pride Parade, and a local pastor's concern that its route and timing would interfere with Catholic worship. After the Fox Chicago Sunday taping, Cardinal George defended his remarks on the subject in a Dec. 27 written statement.
“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,” he explained.
“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.”
Cardinal George did not retract the statements, but said in his Jan. 6 followup that he intended no insult against individuals or homosexuals as a group.
“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,” he wrote. “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,” Cardinal George explained.
He noted that this was “a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.”
Some activists welcomed Cardinal George's statement by canceling their participation in a planned march on Holy Name Cathedral during Sunday Mass. Rainbow Sash Movement Director Joe Murray said he appreciated the cardinal's sincerity and wished to “put this matter behind us.”
But the head of DignityUSA, an organization that promotes defiance of Church teaching on sexuality, called for activists to “keep the pressure on Cardinal George,” saying he had “no business leading one of the largest Catholic communities in the country.”
“We can no longer look to the bishops for moral guidance,” wrote DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne T. Duddy-Burke in a Jan. 8 Huffington Post column. She said Cardinal George's comments showed the need to “dismantle or disregard structures that reinforce Vatican centrality” in the Church.