Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George on Sunday turned an event intended to celebrate the 50-year anniversaries of more than 400 couples' marriages into another opportunity to express his opposition to same-sex marriage.
During the Holy Name Cathedral mass, Cardinal George stated that the institution marriage "comes from God," not the state or the church, CBS Chicago reports.
"There must surely be ways in our civil society, where we can honor friendships, where we can respect other people, without destroying the nature of marriage," George continued, in a vague reference to same-sex relationships. "It is very important, for your whole lives, give witness to what marriage truly means. And while civil laws might change – if they do – then society will be the worse for it."
John Becker, of LGBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out, described the cardinal's statement as "a slap in the face to married same-sex couples, couples living in states like Illinois that forbid them from marrying, and even the married straight couples in attendance at that Mass, many of whom surely felt that the cardinal hijacked their happy moment by delivering these divisive remarks."
Cardinal George has often been the subject of criticism concerning statements made on the subject of LGBT issues. In August, George took issue with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's statement that the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain's values -- including its history of contributions to anti-gay groups -- "are not Chicago values."
Last December, George told a Chicago news station that the city's annual LGBT pride parade could "morph into" a Ku Klux Klan gathering, a charged statement that the cardinal later apologized for, even as many LGBT advocates and their supporters did not accept it.
Prior to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's 2011 signage of the state's civil union law -- which gives gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as those accompanying opposite-sex marriages -- George criticized the proposal:
"Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage," the cardinal said of the bill.
Earlier this month, George, 75, began chemotherapy treatments, the second time the cardinal has received cancer treatment.