Cupich removes pastor from parish after he burned rainbow flag

Cupich removes pastor from parish after he burned rainbow flag September 23, 2018

From The Chicago Tribune: 

Days after it was revealed that the Rev. Paul Kalchik of Avondale’s Resurrection Catholic Church burned a rainbow banner that once hung in the church, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, has removed him from his role as head of the North Side church.

“For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish,” read a letter, signed by Cupich, to parishioners and staff at the church. “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.”

Monsignor James Kaczorowski, pastor of Queen of Angels parish, was appointed administrator of Resurrection Parish, effective Friday evening, according to the notice.

“I do not take this step lightly,” Cupich continued. “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.”

Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the move was not connected to Kalchik’s decision to destroy the banner, a move criticized by some in the community who called it an anti-gay hate crime.

“He is taking some time away from the parish,” Maselli said in an email Saturday. “This has been in the works for some time and is not directly due to the flag burning.”

Calls to Kalchik at the church on Saturday were not returned. His answering machine was full, a recorded message said.

The priest, who has said he was a victim of sexual abuse by a Chicago-area priest as a seminarian, has insisted that he does not hate the gay community.

“I’m about as much of a ‘gay basher’ as Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” the 56-year-old said in an interview with the Tribune on Friday. “Love the sinner, hate the sin — that’s as harsh as I get.”

The church, in its bulletin this week, said Kalchik has received many threats.

On Friday, Kalchik said he has had to have police escort him from the church to his home, out of fear he may be attacked. Earlier in the week, he said an intruder tried to break into the church.

Read more. 

The local NBC affiliate has more:

Kalchik, according to multiple sources, was removed moments before he was to preside at a wedding Saturday afternoon, according to the source close to Fr. Kalchik. Newly installed Auxiliary Bishop Mart Bartosic was sent to Resurrection Parish by Cardinal Blasé Cupich to tell Kalchik he had to leave or the police would be called to arrest him for trespassing.

Kalchik — who had been Resurrection’s pastor for 11 years — left with his brother, who had been visiting, a primary source said.

The wedding mass was instead performed by Bishop Bartosic.

The source close to Fr. Kalchik told NBC 5 that on Friday, two priests sent by Cupich, met Kalchik and requested he leave and undergo psychiatric counseling after the burning of the rainbow pride flag last week. Kalchik’s disagreements with the Cardinal included him recently calling for Catholics to boycott masses Cupich presided over.

It was revealed just this week that a rainbow pride flag that had hung in the church sanctuary, was burned outside the church 10 days ago.

“There have been death threats against him and even his elderly parents, and lots of threats of vandalism to the Church,” the primary source said.

And The Chicago Sun-Times adds:

The 56-year-old priest first announced in a Sept. 2 church bulletin that he planned to burn the flag, after he found it in storage where it apparently sat for more than a decade.

Cupich, who has shared Pope Francis’ more welcoming attitude toward gays in the church, told Kalchik not to burn the flag, but the priest said he did it anyway “in a quiet way” during a closed ceremony with seven parishioners, featuring a prayer of exorcism over the torched banner.

The flag-burning drew the ire of LGBTQ-equality activists, including Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who led a small demonstration across the street from the church on Wednesday, calling on Pope Francis and Cupich “to send this hateful bigot packing.”

Here’s some background on the banner-burning incident, from The Sun-Times:

Rev. Paul Kalchik says the banner, featuring a cross superimposed over a rainbow, had been featured prominently in the sanctuary at Resurrection Catholic Church but had been taken down and was forgotten in storage at the parish at 3043 N. Francisco for more than a decade.

Kalchik led seven parishioners in a prayer of exorcism Friday, and the flag was burned inside a portable fire pit placed the schoolyard next to the church. The ashes of the flag now rest in a church compost heap.

“That banner and what it stood for doesn’t belong to the Archdiocese or Cardinal Cupich. It belongs to the people of this parish who paid for it,” Kalchik said. “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?”

Cupich, who has joined Pope Francis in exuding a more welcoming tone to gays in the Catholic Church, had attempted to stop Kalchik from burning the flag, instructing Kalchik he “could not move forward with that planned activity,” Archdiocese of Chicago spokeswoman Anne Maselli said Tuesday.

Maselli said that the archdiocese was “unaware” that the flag-burning occurred, “and we are following up on the situation. As Catholics we affirm the dignity of all persons.”

There’s more about the banner and how it ended up at the parish at the link. 

Finally, you can read the priest’s homily—in which he announced that he had been sexually abused as a boy and, near the end, called on Pope Francis to resign—here. 

A priest publicly disobeying his bishop is no small thing. But I suspect there is more to this story. Stay tuned.

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