‘I Was Thirsty and You Gave Me Drink’: A Suggestion for Cardinal George

Cardinal George

Since Cardinal George’s insensitive comments comparing the LGBT movement to the Ku Klux Klan occurred just days before Christmas,  it has been difficult to keep up with all the commentary occurring about this matter.   Three responses are very much worth noting.

Dignity/Chicago, the local chapter of DignityUSA in the Windy City, released a statement calling on Cardinal George to clarify and apologize for his comments.  Chapter President Chris Pett noted,

“The fact is the LGBT community is not the enemy nor have we called the Catholic Church our enemy. This is another attempt to make the church appear to be the victim when so many LGBT people and youths have been victimized by the church’s exclusion and intolerance. As LGBT Catholics, we at Dignity/Chicago have experienced both great love and acceptance in the Catholic Church, but also dishonesty and condemnation from many of our churches leaders.”

More importantly, Pett instructs the Cardinal what a true Christian response should be to any perceived animosity the prelate may feel:

“If there is hostility in the gay community toward the Church, then the remedy from the Church is love.”

At America magazine’s blog , a post by  Kevin Clarke  also noted the issue of hostility:  the potential for hostility in the future, specifically at Gay Pride in Chicago next year.  (You may recall that the controversy which was the occasion for Cardinal George’s statements is that the Gay Pride parade will be passing by Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish at the time when the parish has its scheduled Sunday liturgy;  crowds and noise from the parade are expected to hamper parishioners from getting to the church building and praying peacefully.):

“If George was worried that something worse might be in the offing at Mt. Carmel [parish] 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.”

Fortunately, as Clarke points out, not all Chicago Catholic leaders feel the way that Cardinal George does.  In fact. Fr. Thomas Srenn, the pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, posted  a statement on the parish website explaining the issue and hoping for an agreeable outcome for all.  The following are excerpts:

“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.”

Chicago city officials and Pride parade organizers have worked out a compromise to start the parade later so as not to interfere with the parish’s Mass and other church services along the route.    Here’s an additional suggestion:  Wouldn’t it be great if Our Lady of Mount Carmel parishioners were outside their church building to greet parade participants and offer them cups or water?

The third response is from Cardinal George himself.   Towleroad.com carries a video from WABC-TV which shows the cardinal making the following clarification on Christmas Day:

” ‘Obviously, it’s absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan, but if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshipping God, well then that’s the comparison, but it’s not with people and people – it’s parade-parade,’ said George.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like an apology or a clarification which ameliorates the situation.  Cardinal George will need to do better.  Here’s another suggestion:  Wouldn’t it be even greater if Cardinal George greeted parade marchers and handed out water to them, too?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry