Last week, when I heard news that Father Paul Kalchik and some fellow parishioners from his Chicago parish had burned a rainbow flag he found in the church’s storage, I knew things weren’t going to go well for him in Cardinal Bernardin’s old archdiocese, now administered by Cardinal Cupich. The Chicago Tribune provides context:
Kalchik said he twice was a victim of sexual abuse, the first time by a neighbor, when he was 11, and the second time by a Chicago-area priest when he was a teenager. The priest Kalchik names as the one who abused him died in the 1990s and has not been among those who have been named by the Diocese of Joliet or the Archdiocese of Chicago as a priest with substantiated allegations against them. Kalchik equates the flag with predatory behavior, he said.
The church bulletin further explains Kalchik’s thinking.
“The banner surfaced just when the news of the gay predation of former Cardinal McCarrick broke, and was found by a priest who was a himself a victim of a similar predator,” it read. “We cannot think this happened because God wanted the banner hung back up in our Church. The clandestine nature of the consensual homosexual sex going on among so many in the clergy allowed the intimidation of seminarians and rapes to be covered up also.
“If you don’t like Fr. Paul for burning that banner, at least ask yourself what it represented to him as a victim,” the letter added. It also published the first names of some of those who allegedly made threats, inviting the faithful to pray for the callers.
“Only divine intervention (a miracle) will get them to calm down enough to have a rational discussion,” the note said.
Rev. Paul Kalchik says the banner, featuring a cross superimposed over a rainbow, had been featured prominently in the sanctuary at Resurrection Catholic Church but had been taken down and was forgotten in storage at the parish at 3043 N. Francisco for more than a decade.
Kalchik led seven parishioners in a prayer of exorcism Friday, and the flag was burned inside a portable fire pit placed the schoolyard next to the church. The ashes of the flag now rest in a church compost heap.
“That banner and what it stood for doesn’t belong to the Archdiocese or Cardinal Cupich. It belongs to the people of this parish who paid for it,” Kalchik said. “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?”
Kalchik told the Tribune that he had been advised by the archdiocese’s vicar for priests not to burn the flag.
But he did it anyway, and now Cardinal Cupich has removed him from the parish.