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Chicago cardinal under fire for comparing gay movement to KKK

By Cynthia Dizikes, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Cardinal Francis George has never been shy about expressing his views on divisive issues like abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples.

But gay rights groups said the Chicago archbishop crossed the line when he compared the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan.

George’s comments aired Wednesday on a Fox Chicago newscast. The entire interview is scheduled to run Sunday evening.

In the televised clip, the cardinal was asked his view of a local pastor who had expressed concern that next year’s annual gay pride parade could force the church to cancel its morning mass. George said he supported the pastor.

“He’s telling us that they won’t be able to 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 Catholicism.” George said. “So I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don’t know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that.”

George acknowledged that it was a strong analogy, but reiterated his sentiment.

“The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan; the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people — who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church,” George said.

In October, city officials and parade organizers agreed to change the route and time of the parade to safely accommodate larger crowds, moving it from noon to 10 a.m.

But leaders with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which would be on the new parade route, objected, arguing that it would interrupt morning services. On Wednesday, an agreement was reached to move the start time back to noon.

Given the accommodations that had been made the same day, parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer called the cardinal’s comments “unfortunate.”

Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, a Chicago-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, said he was so shocked when he watched a clip of the interview online that he had to stop and replay it.

“I literally had no words,” Martinez said. “To equate a movement that is about acceptance, diversity and joy to a group of men in white hoods standing on a lawn and burning a cross is very hurtful and it’s just not truthful.”

Martinez suggested that tension between the LGBT community and Catholic leadership has heightened in Illinois in recent months after this year’s approval of civil unions. Feeling besieged by similar legislation in other states, the nation’s Catholic bishops recently made religious liberty a No. 1 priority.

“I think that he in some way feels attacked by the LGBT community because of their strong stance,” Martinez said. “But in the end, the way that we discuss these issues and the way we express ourselves is not directed at the Catholic Church, it is directed toward people who oppose our civil rights.”

The Rev. Thomas Srenn, senior pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, declined to comment Thursday about the cardinal’s comments, saying that he had not contacted George about the parade changes because it was a local issue.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said people should watch the entire interview, which is to air on Christmas Day.

“Whether it was the best choice of analogy I don’t know. Taken out of context the meaning can be misinterpreted,” the spokeswoman said. “I would suggest people read the whole interview.”

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