A Terrible Advent Gift in Chicago

Recent pronouncements by Chicago’s Roman Catholic cardinal, Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, have moved Illinois State Representative Greg Harris to call for an immediate apology to the people of Chicago, particularly the GLBT community.

Harris stated that the Cardinal’s recent choice of words in relation to the GLBT community was “very unfortunate…we should all speak respectfully of each other” after the Cardinal remarked that Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade could “morph into the Ku Klux Klan”, becoming a threatening vehicle of hatred toward the Catholic Church. I too find the cardinal’s comments stunningly ironic as well as misguided and offensive.

The Cardinal’s observations were occasioned by a Chicago Catholic parish’s complaint that having a gay pride parade routed in front of his church would disrupt his Sunday service schedule. “I go with the pastor,” Cardinal George told news sources. “He’s telling us that he won’t be able to have services on Sunday….You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism”. Not even a remote hint of consciousness about the Mission of God in the Church, of community ministry, or of reaching out with Gospel love to those around us.

Only another stunningly ironic statement. The Catholic church, at least in this particular case, is so far out of touch with the GLBT population of Chicago, that I very much doubt the GLBT community would bother to protest something so irrelevant to their lives.  A sad commentary about the real influence of people who claim to represent the Good News of Jesus Christ.

While our own Christ Church Cathedral welcomes the Vancouver Gay Pride parade, and even participates in it along with other Anglicans in the Lower Mainland, Chicago’s Catholic establishment has cut it off, becoming just another irrelevant religious institution who puts its own self preservation and rigidity before the welfare of people and the witness of Christ.

Even Fox News pointed out that the Cardinal’s statement was “a little strong”. But he stands by his words, in a way that reflects the worst kind of institutional paranoia; “… take a look at the rhetoric, the rhetoric of the Klu Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church,” he intoned.

Another Illinois state representative, Sara Feigenholtz commented that, “the Cardinal’s unfortunate choice of words in comparing the LGBT community to the Klu Klux Klan is offensive…I would hope an apology be forthcoming.” Feigenholtz’s use of the words “LGBT community” stands in stark contract to the Cardinal’s derogatory moniker “Gay Liberation Movement” – yet another indication of how far out of touch he is with contemporary social, spiritual and cultural realities.

Attitudes such as those represented by Chicago’s Roman Catholic archbishop should propel us more strongly into the Mission of God into which we are called as a church. His terrible Advent gift to the people of Chicago challenges us to do something great for our witness to God’s unconditional love for the world. My prayer is that God would continually raise us above that which impairs Gospel witness to all people and alienates even more people from experiencing the love of Christ.

The wonderful documentary, “Lord Save Us from Your Followers” is wonderfully relevant to this whole unfortunate Chicago situation and speaks powerfully to it. I’m getting a DVD copy, and would gladly share it with all who would like an inspiring look at what God is doing in the world.

Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam, and one of the bloggers at New Westminster Anglican Blog. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.

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