The good news on Sunday was that Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich has removed from ministry the pastor who ceremonially burned a rainbow flag as an attempt to “cleanse” his parish which had once welcomed lesbian and gay people.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported:
“Cupich sent two of his top deputies to Resurrection Catholic Church on Friday to notify the Rev. Paul Kalchik that he was being removed as pastor. . . .
“In a letter to parishioners and staff released Saturday evening by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cupich wrote that he has ‘become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish.
” ‘It has become clear to me that Fr. Kalchik must take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support so his needs can be assessed,’ Cupich wrote.”
Cupich’s letter, which is posted on the Archdiocese of Chicago website, also stated:
“I do not take this step lightly. Rather, I act out of concern for Fr Kalchik’s welfare and that of the people of Resurrection Parish. I have a responsibility to be supportive of our priests when they have difficulties, but I also have a duty to ensure that those who serve our faithful are fully able to minister to them in the way the Church expects.”
A spokesperson added further comment:
“Archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli noted that ‘this decision has been in motion for some time and is not directly due to the flag-burning.’ “
While other factors may have been involved in the decision, the timing of Kalchik’s removal appears to indicate that the flag-burning must have played some role in the decision. It may have been the last straw in a series of other pastorally-questionable actions by the priest. NBCchicago.com reported: “Kalchik’s disagreements with the Cardinal included him recently calling for Catholics to boycott masses Cupich presided over.”
ABC7Chicago.com provided a quote from a church-goer who heard the news of Kalchik’s removal at Sunday Mass:
” ‘I was sitting there and the priest who was giving mass got up to give the sermon and said in lieu of a sermon, I have a letter from Cardinal Cupich,’ said Rick Garcia, who is both a devout Catholic and an LGBTQ activist. [Editor’s note: Garcia is also a former New Ways Ministry staff member.]
“Garcia, who refrained from criticizing Kalchik, praised Cupich. ‘Our cardinal did two things. He stood with gay and lesbian people and he made sure that one of his priests gets the necessary help that he needs. My heart overflows for that.’ “
During the news reports about the flag-burning, Kalchik revealed that he was a victim of clerical abuse and that he blamed the clergy abuse crisis on gay priests.
The flag-burning had drawn protesters to the parish in recent days, before Cupich’s action was announced. The Chicago Tribune reported last week on an event organized by the parish neighborhood’s city alderman who is an openly lesbian woman:
“Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, led a small demonstration Wednesday evening outside the church to send Kalchik ‘a strong message that hate has no home here,’ said a spokeswoman for Mell, whose ward includes Avondale.
“Laura Bomkamp, a teacher from Avondale, was disappointed by the banner burning. She joined Mell outside the church Wednesday evening.
“Roughly two dozen people turned out, some carrying signs and holding rainbow flags. . .
” ‘It’s not a good time to be a Catholic,’ said Bomkamp, who came with her daughter, referring to the sexual abuse scandal that has enveloped the church. She believes Kalchik, who told the Sun-Times he also was a victim of abuse by a priest, is a victim too.”
Sadly, Kalchik reported to the police that he had been receiving threats since the flag-burning, reported The Chicago Tribune. The news article also noted:
“It’s not immediately known whether Cupich’s decision to remove Kalchik is final, or whether Kalchik will be reinstated at the Avondale church. It is also not known what other issues the Archdiocese of Chicago was concerned about, or what role, if any, Kalchik will play in the church.”
Cardinal Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago did the right thing in swiftly removing Kalchik. If they had let the flag-burning stand, it surely would have inspired similar actions by anti-LGBT Catholics. As the story unfolded, it appeared that Kalchik’s action was that of someone who was either filled with hate or very deeply disturbed. Regardless of his motivation, Kalchik revealed himself to be someone greatly in need of pastoral, theological, and perhaps psychological help.
Cupich’s action has three important benefits. It provides the LGBT Catholic community with the assurance that acts such as Kalchik’s would not be tolerated by the Archdiocese of Chicago. It also protects Resurrection parishioners from being ministered to by a priest who is presently not fit to do so. Finally, it can help Fr. Kalchik to get the professional help he needs.
The primary victims of homophobia and transphobia are LGBT people who are persecuted and oppressed. We sometimes forget, though, that the secondary victims are the homophobic and transphobic people themselves whose minds and hearts become so clouded by fear, anger, and ignorance. May this sad incident be the start of a new life for Chicago’s Catholic LGBT community, for the parishioners of Resurrection parish, and for Fr. Kalchik himself.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 24, 2018
Previous Bondings 2.0 posts on Fr. Kalchik and the flag-burning: