Though he has come under fire by LGBT advocates over a comment he recently made comparing Gay Pride Parade organizers to "something like the Ku Klux Klan," Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, stood by that contentious comparison in a statement issued this week.
"[T]he organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church," the Cardinal said in a statement, as reported by the Windy City Times concerning the comment. "One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940's, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus."
Cardinal George went on to note in his that "it is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm" and that he is "grateful" that the parade organizers adjusted their start time to allow the parish to celebrate their Sunday mass peacefully.
Still, he said, "these tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free."
The controversy began on Dec. 18, when the Cardinal, in the midst of an interview on Fox Chicago concerning a local Roman Catholic church's complaints that a re-routed Gay Pride Parade would pass by its front doors and thwart their Sunday mass, said he understood the parish's concerns.
"You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism," Cardinal George said. 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."
Many LGBT groups and progressive leaders took issue with that comment, including the national LGBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out, which launched a Change.org petition calling for the Cardinal to resign from his post. The petition has been signed just over 4,100 times as of early Thursday.
Local LGBT groups remained unmoved by the Cardinal's statement. On Christmas Day, George appeared to backtrack slightly from his initial comment when he told ABC Chicago that "obviously, it's absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan." He added that he was talking only about the parade and not its organizers.
Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, said George "is obviously avoiding the calls for his resignation and apology."
"His statement not only lays the blame for his comments squarely on the parade organizers by saying they 'invited' his comments, but he does not take responsibility for his brazen and hurtful words," Martinez said in a statement.
"The Cardinal's words are hurtful to LGBT Catholics and the entire LGBT community. We renew our call for Cardinal George to issue an apology for his hurtful comments and respectfully ask him to resign," he continued.
Randy Hannig, director of public policy at Equality Illinois, described the Cardinal's statement as "essentially a case of blaming the victim for being victimized."
"The LGBT community has no desire to 'stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,' as the Cardinal states," Hannig added.