A Chicago Catholic parish is causing controversy after parishioners burned a rainbow pride flag, ignoring an order from the Chicago Archdiocese.
The flag, which hung in the sanctuary of the church more than 25 years ago, had been taken down and put in storage, but was burned in a quiet ceremony this week.
“We did (burn the flag) in a private way, so as not to bring the ire of the gay community down upon this parish,” Rev. Paul Kalchik said.
Originally the church had planned to burn the flag in a public ceremony on Sept. 29, as part of the Feast of Saint Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, but the Chicago Archdiocese intervened, asking the parish to refrain from the burning.
Social media posts showed the flag, which featured a rainbow and the cross, burning behind the church this week.
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“We put an end to a depiction of the Lord’s Cross that was profane,” Kalchik said. “We took matters into our own hands and said a prayer of exorcism over this thing. It was cut into seven pieces, so it was burned over stages in the same fire pit that we used for the Easter vigil mass.”
Kalchik told the Chicago Sun-Times he was sexually abused by a neighbor and a priest when he was a teen, and blamed homosexuality for the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
He also said the Archdiocese threatened him with “canonical penalties” if he went through with the flag burning.
In a statement to NBC 5, the Archdiocese said they were “following up on the situation,” and that “as Catholics, we affirm the dignity of all persons.”
Dignity USA, a Catholic organization that advocates for equality, said the flag burning was disrespectful and destructive.
“Those involved in this desecration are violating the core values of the Catholic faith,” a spokeswoman for the group said in a statement to NBC News. “They are hijacking the parish to further an extremist agenda, and damaging the community in doing so.”