Ald. Deb Mell ( 33rd Ward ) organized a peaceful assembly Sept. 19 outside Resurrection Catholic Church, 3043 N. Francisco Ave., in response to Pastor Fr. Paul Kalchik and seven parishioners' unauthorized burning of a Rainbow flagwhich had recently found in a storage area of the churchthis past weekend. The burning also included a prayer of "exorcism," and the remnants of the flag were left in the church's compost heap.
Mell and about 30 community members gathered, with some holding up Hate Has No Home Here banners and others Rainbow flags, across the street from the church to send a message to Kalchik that his action was unacceptable.
"Thank you everyone for coming out on this rainy day for this very important display of peace," said Mell. "This morning, I woke up and was going through my Twitter feed and I [saw] 'Priest burns gay flag in exorcism ceremony' and I did not click on it because I did not think it was in my ward, but somewhere else. Then I learned it was Fr. Paul and right away I became very angry because Fr. Paul and I know each other well. We deal with the parking situation around the church, street vendors and other ward issues and I had no idea of the hate in his heart for our community. I have been hearing from a lot of folks throughout this city today and they are also very concerned about the level of incendiary action that Fr. Paul took last Friday.
"We understand that Fr. Paul is also healing from his own wounds from the abuse he suffered as a child, but it is not OK to demonize a whole community and put out hateful rhetoric to make himself feel better. I really wish he would look inside himself. We have come so far in the LGBTQ community and have so many things to celebrate. To think this hatred is being spread in our neighborhood is not acceptable. LGBTQ families are the fabric of our neighborhoods."
Mell praised Cardinal Blase Cupich for telling Kalchik that the church did not give him the authority to burn the Rainbow flag. She further spoke about growing up Catholic herself, and added that she was encouraged by gradual progress she sees in the church around LGBTQ people and issues.
Mell also noted that Kalchik quoted scripture that called for the killing of LGBTQ people. That kind of speech, she added, "cannot go unchecked" because LGBTQ people, especially trans people of color, are being killed in Chicago and across the country. She called on Kalchik to come meet with the protestors because she had a Rainbow flag for him; he did not emerge from the church, however.
Speaking with reporters, Mell said that she hopes Kalchik is open to change which is why she wants to have a dialogue with him. Addressing Kalchik's assertion that pedophilia is connected with having gay priests in the church's ranks, Mell said there is no evidence that "gay people are pedophiles more than straight people."
In terms of Kalchik's connection to what DignityUSA calls the extreme, ultra-conservative and not officially recognized Church Militant website, where his writings have been published, Mell said the site does not equate with the person she knows who has assisted the homeless, immigrants and refugees.She added that her relationship with Kalchik is strained now and called on him to be removed from the parish so he can go get the help he needs.
One anti-LGBTQ protestor was in the crowd and shouted out, "You're lying" and, "You changed, he didn't," while Mell was answering reporter's questions.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Rev. Emily Heitzman also spoke. She said what happened was "heartbreaking and shameful, and that it was instigated by someone of the cloth made it even worse.
"What this priest did, and his uninformed and bigoted statements, give scandal to the people of God and promote bigotry, violence and hatred," said longtime LGBTQ civil rights activist and practicing Roman Catholic Rick Garcia, who also attended the protest. "As far back as 1976, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that gay people are entitled to 'friendship, love and justice.' What Fr. Kalchik did was neither friendly, loving nor just.
"To his great credit, Cardinal Cupich told the priest not to move forward with the flag burning, and [warned that], if he did, there would be 'canonical penalties,' and the cardinal was clear in affirming the dignity of all people, including LGBTQ people."
Activist TJ Williams-Hauger, who was not at the protest, added: "Resurrection Parish Church has been a parish who has historically been supportive of the LGBT community. The Rainbow flag was previously on display in the sanctuary of the church as a testament to Jesus' radical message of love and equality. While the voice of protest is important in all cases of speaking against oppression and bigotry, I feel that it is most appropriate to target not the church, but Fr. Paul Kalchik, who committed this act of hatred."
See www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Chicago-priest-parishioners-burn-Rainbow-flag-in-defiance-of-Archdiocese-orders/64140.html and www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Local-priests-planned-Rainbow-flag-burning-shut-down-by-Chicago-Archdiocese/64002.html for previous reporting on this story.