Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, this week told a Chicago news station that he agreed with a local Roman Catholic church's objections to the city's recently-adjusted Gay Pride Parade route passing by its doors and warned that the parade could "morph into the Ku Klux Klan."
George made the comment Sunday on Fox Chicago when asked about Our Lady of Mount Carmel's complaints that the parade passing by its Belmont Avenue location would force the church to cancel its morning mass. The church recently launched a petition urging the city to force parade organizers to adjust their plans.
"I go with the pastor," George told Fox. "He's telling us that he won't be able to have services on Sunday if that's the case. You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."
(Scroll down to watch video of Cardinal George's comment.)
When the Fox host pointed out that George's comparison was "a little strong," the cardinal stood by his statement.
"It is, but you take a look at the rhetoric," he continued. "The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation people. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church."
The cardinal's comments came a matter of days before the Gay Pride Parade organizers announced Wednesday that the pride start time, originally pushed back to 10 a.m. in an effort to curb public drinking, overcrowding and other safety hazards, would revert back to noon in order to stay clear of the church's Sunday mass, according to the Windy City Times.
LGBT Catholic group the Rainbow Sash Movement criticized Cardinal George as promoting a "doubled standard" in pushing for the parade to start later.
"One only has the look at the Chicago Marathon, and negative impact that race has on parishes such as Assumption Parish, St. Joseph's Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Michael's Parish just to name a few," the statement read, as reported by the Windy City Times.
Other local LGBT and progressive leaders reacted with disappointed to Cardinal George's controversial statement on Fox.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) called the Cardinal's choice of words "very unfortunate ... we should all speak respectfully of each other." LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda executive director Anthony Martinez said he suspected the cardinal is "lashing out at the LBGT community over past matters and legislation that have now been resolved," the Chicago Phoenix reports.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) also weighed in on the statement, telling ChicagoPride.com, "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."
Catholic leadership in Chicago and, more broadly, Illinois have had a tenuous year with the LGBT community, fighting battles concerning the state's new civil union law, same-sex foster and adoptive parents and, most recently, the Illinois Catholic Conference launched a "Defense of Marriage" department with the hope of blocking any further steps the state might take toward recognizing same-sex marriage.
WATCH the exchange: