The Archdiocese of Chicago has removed a priest who ignited controversy after burning an LGBTQ pride flag on church grounds.
Rev. Paul Kalchik was removed from Resurrection Catholic Church in the city’s Avondale parish after he carried out the stunt on September 14, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Cardinal Blase Cupich told Kalchik not to burn the flag, which depicted a cross with a rainbow background, instructing him not to “move forward with that planned activity.”
Kalchik did so anyway, performing a prayer of exorcism before carrying out the burning with a small group of parishioners in a yard next to the church.
After learning that Kalchik had defied him, Cupich informed Kalchik that he would be removed from his position, a decision that was then relayed in a letter to parishioners and staff.
“For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish,” Cupich wrote. “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.”
He added: “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.”
Kalchik reportedly carried out the flag-burning as a response to Cupich’s moves to make the church more accepting of LGBTQ people, as well as Kalchik’s belief that Cupich is trying to cover-up the sex abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church.
In an interview with the Sun-Times, Kalchik said the rampant abuse within the church was “definitely a gay thing,” and 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?”
He also said that the flag should have been destroyed in 2007, along with other rainbow-colored items, after he was ordained as pastor.
Kalchik said that the priests who had led the church before him were “big in promoting the gay lifestyle,” and the flag that he burned was installed in 1991 to make the church more welcoming to LGBTQ people.
“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,” he said.
Kalchik claims he has received death threats since carrying out the flag burning, with the Chicago Tribune reporting that he required a police escort due to fear of being attacked.
The priest, who says he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest when he was a seminarian, also told the Tribune that he doesn’t hate gay people.
“I’m about as much of a ‘gay basher’ as Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” he said. “Love the sinner, hate the sin — that’s as harsh as I get.”
Local LGBTQ people and allies protested Resurrection church after news broke of Kalchik’s stunt, with many calling for him to be removed.
After it was revealed that he had been ordered to stand down from his position, Al Grippe, a member of Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate, cheered the decision, saying it would have been an “affront” to LGBTQ people had Kalchik remained as priest.
“Having him remain in a leadership position would be an affront to the LGBT community,” Grippe told the Tribune. “It was a clear act of hate, and he was rightfully removed.”