Cardinal Francis George said this week he's "grateful" organizers of Chicago's gay pride parade adjusted the start time of the parade so it didn't interfere with a church's Mass celebration.
But in doing so, he also stoked the flames of controversy by saying organizers "invited" analogies like one he made last week comparing their activism with that of the Ku Klux Klan.
"He's not taking responsibility for his bombastic language," said Anthony Martinez with The Civil Rights Agenda.
In a statement posted online Tuesday, George said that by initially ignoring the pastor's request for consideration, organizers were acting like other groups "who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.
"One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate," he said.
The analogy, and George's explanation of it, doesn't sit well with gay rights advocates.
"I've sort of held off calling for his resignation, but after the statement yesterday he's showing that he's completely disassociated the laypeople within the Catholic church," said Martinez.
Parade organizers in October announced changes to the route, start time and size of Chicago's second largest parade. In early December, the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, in Uptown, expressed "concern" that the parade would inhibit celebrants' access to Mass.
Parade organizers and church officials last week settled the little dust-up, moving the start time from 10 a.m. to noon. The following morning, George was asked about the controversy and expressed support of Pastor Thomas Srenn.
"You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan," George said in a televised interview on Fox Chicago.
His comments immediately sparked controversy, with some groups calling them "crude" and others calling for his resignation. Nearly 500 students at St. Norbert's College, in De Pere, Wis., have signed an online petition asking the college to replace George as its commencement speaker.
Cardinal Francis George's Full Statement:
The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church.
When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.
When the pastor's request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.
One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940's, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus.
It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.
It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm. These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free.
I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade's start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday.