Chicago's Cardinal George came out swinging Wed. in a local throwdown between a Catholic parish and the organizers of the upcoming Gay Pride parade in June 2012. Asked by a local television news reporter to comment on the complaint of the pastor of a parish on the parade route that parishioners would be unable to gt through the crowd to get to Mass on the Sunday when the parade throngs arrived, George offered a comparison that clearly startled the reporter.
“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” Cardinal George said.
“That’s a little strong analogy, Ku Klux Klan,” Fox Chicago’s Dane Placko responded after a moment.
“It is,” the cardinal agreed. “But you take a look at the rhetoric, the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.”
The 2012 parade has been moved from Saturday to Sunday, and the route has been altered because of overcrowding and general rowdiness last year—its size has also been considerably scaled back in the hope that this might reduce the overall craziness. The change in route and time came after last year's parade drew nearly 800,000 people and public safety became a concern. The new route is longer, which organizers hope will relieve street and sidewalk overcrowding, and now directs the parade down Belmont Ave. on Chicago's North Side toward Broadway, both major neighborhood arteries. If the route stands, that means the parade will go right past Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church and Sunday morning churchgoers will likely have trouble getting through the front door.
If George was worried that something worse might be in the offing at Mt. Carmel by way of expression of antipathy to the church from gay priders turned protestors, his unfortunate comparison seems likely to assure such a confrontation now.
Mt. Carmel pastor Father Thomas Srenn seems to have followed a far more circumspect course in explaining his concerns regarding the proposed Pride route. In a statement posted at the parish Web site, he writes:
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has been part of the East Lakeview neighborhood for 125 years. From its founding as an immigrant parish until today, our parish has witnessed many demographic changes. Parishioners, indeed, are proud of their local history and particularly proud of the current diversity that exists in our church and school communities.comments seem to assure....
The annual Pride Parade is one of the hallmarks that make Lakeview unique and we in no way wish to diminish its place in the community. The petition simply asks the City and the Chicago Pride Parade planners to consider our concern that the impact of the new route and time would have on the ability of people to participate at Sunday morning Masses
Attempts to provide other access to our church will in no way enable our parishioners to navigate the anticipated crowds or to be able to celebrate Mass in the reflective, contemplative atmosphere that is so important to us.
Parishioners, the residents of our diverse community, the many visitors who will enjoy our neighborhood that weekend, all want to have a safe, peaceful and enjoyable Pride Sunday.
Members of Chicago's gay community are predictably outraged by Cardinal George's comparison of them to the odious KKK. The parade is still months away and cooler heads appear to already have prevailed somewhat.
Forty-fourth Ward Alderman Tom Tunney and organizer Richard Pfeiffer meet with church representatives last week to discuss the parish's concerns about the route and proposed start time of 10 a.m., which is one hour before the church's morning Mass.
Tunney is both Chicago's first openly gay alderman and a Mt. Carmel parishioner, so he may have been especially motivated to find a resolution. Parade organizers now say the start time will be pushed back to Noon to help accommodate Sunday services along the parade route.
"After consulting with the various City departments, we believe this is an agreeable compromise to help keep the parade safe and manageable while respecting the diversity of our neighborhood," Tunney and Pfeiffer said in a joint statement.