US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Cardinal George apologizes for KKK remark

By Catherine O'Connell-Cahill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It’s good to see that Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has apologized for his remarks comparing the gay pride movement to the Ku Klux Klan.

He made the original comment to Fox News in response to a question about a conflict over the route of Chicago’s gay pride parade, which originally would have blocked access to mass for a church on the route (a church which hosts a weekly Sunday evening mass as part of the archdiocese’s gay and lesbian outreach): "You know, you don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

Like many Catholics, Cardinal George says he has gay and lesbian people in his family. More important, however, he is the pastor of 2.3 million Catholics, a fair number of whom are gay and lesbian. Gays and lesbians, therefore, far from being “them,” are instead part of “us.” The way that Irish and Latino Catholics, children and married and single people are part of “us.”

He said in a January 6 interview with the Chicago Tribune:

"When I was talking, I was speaking out of fear that I have for the church's liberty and I was reaching for an analogy which was very inappropriate, for which I'm sorry," George said. "I didn't realize the impact of what I was saying. ... Sometimes fear is a bad motivation."

Amen to that. Like many of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal George sees the church’s religious liberty under threat from many sides. An intellectual powerhouse, I’m sure that his comment made sense to him in the world of abstract argument, but up until now he apparently neglected to come to grips with the inevitable harm it did to the millions to whom he is pastor, and to millions more nationwide who read of his words.

The representatives of groups representing gays and lesbians contacted by the Tribune offered gracious responses to George’s apology. "We believe in reconciliation,” said Chris Pett, president of Dignity Chicago, an independent organization for gay, lesbian, and transgender Catholics. “It's not a time to continue to draw battle lines and go back to prior history. It's time to say we're grateful for that gift for someone realizing that he or she misspoke in a way that caused some harm and seek forgiveness."