Chicago Priest Burns Rainbow Banner:
On Sept. 14, Father Paul Kalchik, priest at Resurrection Catholic Church in the neighborhood of Avondale in Chicago took a church banner that displayed a rainbow and a cross, cut it into pieces, and burned it in the Easter Vigil fire pit in front of a few congregation members.
In an interview last week, Fr. Kalchik asked: “What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about? …The people of this parish have been pretty resilient and put up with a lot of B.S… And it was just by accident that this banner that was made to celebrate all things gay…did not get destroyed when I first got here.”
Fr. Kalchik stated that the sexual abuse within the church is “definitely a gay thing,” and one of his parishioners explained that: “the flag that he burnt was… meant for evil things…It brought prey to predators.”
On Friday, Sept. 21, the priest was removed from the parish, and Cardinal Cupich stated in a letter: “For some weeks now, I have 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.”
However, Archdiocese spokesperson Anne Maselli explained in an email on Saturday that: “He is taking some time away from the parish. This has been in the works for some time and is not directly due to the flag burning.”
Whoever Welcomes One Such Child…
In the Revised Common Lectionary this past Sunday, we saw Jesus take a little child into his arms. And as he embraced this child (one who was considered to be on the margins of society), he told his disciples: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love and welcome all of our neighbors and to particularly stand up for and with those who are being marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted. Our Christian faith calls us to see all people as beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image and as beloved children of God, and to proclaim that those of us in the LGBTQIA+ community are worthy and deserving of God’s love and full inclusion in faith communities, just as anyone else.
Fr. Kalchik’s hateful act of burning the rainbow banner and his words connecting pedophilia and sexual abuse with the LGBTQIA+ community not only denies the Imago Dei of many within the human family, but it has also been traumatizing and has posed a real danger to the LGBTQIA+ community. As several Chicago area clergy and religious leaders have stated in our open letter to Cardinal Cupich (posted below): “By making this claim and taking these actions, Fr. Kalchik is futher endangering LGBTQIA+ people and their families and in using his authority as a Catholic Priest, giving permission for others to treat LGBTQIA+ people with hatred and violence.”
Since Fr. Kalchik burned the banner, a strong statement from Cardinal Cupich or the archdiocese has not been made that acknowledges the trauma this act has caused or the dangers it imposes. Nor has a strong statement been released that denounces Fr. Kalchik’s harmful words and false claims about the LGBTQIA+ community.
Thus, on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 8:00am, several Chicago-area faith leaders delivered a letter to Cardinal Cupich with over 180 signatures from Chicago-area faith leaders (of many traditions), laypersons, and seminary faculty, administrators, and students. The letter asks Cardinal Cupich to make a strong public statement acknowledging the trauma caused and denouncing Fr. Kalchik’s hateful actions and words, to conduct a full investigation of these actions, and to offer full transparency about Fr. Kalchik’s process and future.
Join Us In Our #BurnCandlesNotRainbows Campaign:
As of Wednesday, Sept. 26 at noon, there has still not been a response from Cardinal Cupich or the Archdiocese of Chicago. This silence further causes deep hurt and harm. Therefore, we are asking other clergy, religious leaders, and members of faith communities and institutions to join us in signing this letter. (You do NOT need to be from the Chicago-area.) You can find the letter with signatures and a link where you can add your name and title here.
Please share widely!
We also invite faith leaders and faith communities this weekend to join us in showing support and God’s love to our LGBTQIA+ siblings by wearing rainbow vestments and displaying rainbow flags or symbols.
Please post photos of these symbols and messages on social media with the hashtags:
Let’s show our LGBTQIA+ siblings that God’s love is for all, and that love wins!
See full letter below:
Dear Cardinal Cupich,
We write as religious leaders and people of faith in Chicago. As your colleagues in ministry, we represent congregations and organizations from across the city.
We come from different denominations and religious traditions, and yet, we trust that we share in common a belief in the Imago Dei – that we are each created in the image of God, that we are each beloved and worthy of God’s love and deserving of inclusion in communities of faith.
We also believe that positions of religious and spiritual leadership come with a responsibility to lead and care for our communities out of a deep sense of self awareness and compassion, a commitment to do no harm. We are called, as spiritual leaders to own our own stories – even our stories of deep pain and trauma so that we do not inflict abuse or pain on those who look to us for pastoral care and spiritual guidance.
On Friday, September 14, 2018, Father Paul Kalchik of Resurrection Catholic Church gathered with a small group of parishioners. They cut a rainbow banner that included a cross on it into pieces and then burned it. In comments reported by the Chicago Sun Times, regarding his actions Fr. Kalchik “claims the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the church is ‘definitely a gay thing.’” In addition, Fr. Kalchik was quoted in the same article as saying, “The people of this parish have been pretty resilient and put up with a lot of B.S…And it was just by accident that this banner that was made to celebrate all things gay … did not get destroyed when I first got here.”
Fr. Kalchik’s actions have caused great harm. They have traumatized some of us personally, members of our congregations and organizations, and countless others in our city and beyond by falsely claiming that the sex-abuse crisis plaguing the Catholic Church is “definitely a gay thing.” By making this claim and taking these actions, Fr. Kalchik is further endangering LGBTQIA+ people and their families and in using his authority as a Catholic Priest, giving permission for others to treat LGBTQIA+ people with hatred and violence.
We write to request a full investigation of these actions and for full transparency from the Diocese concerning Fr. Kalchik’s process and future. As people of faith we have deep compassion for the ways in which he has been wounded, and pray that he will experience personal healing and restoration. However, when someone with religious authority acts out of their own trauma to abuse others we must take action, and we ask for confirmation that Fr. Kalchik has been removed from ministry. We also request that you issue a statement that strongly asserts the dignity and worth of all people, including LGBTQIA+ people and their families, and denounces any connection between LGBTQIA+ people and pedophiles and sexual abusers.
Cardinal Cupich, at this time in our history and in our country, a strong statement is needed from someone in your position in the Catholic Church. Otherwise, the Catholic Church is complicit in giving people a license to hate and harm. Thus far, you have remained silent on Fr. Kalchik’s false and harmful statements about LGBTQIA+ people and we are eager to hear from you.
Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran. Some of her sermons and reflections can be found at Musings from a Bricolage.
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