Northwest Side priest who burned rainbow banner removed from church effective immediately, ‘must take time away from the parish’
Days after it was revealed that the Rev. Paul Kalchik of Avondale’s Resurrection Catholic Church burned a rainbow banner that once hung in the church, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, has removed him from his role as head of the North Side church.
“For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish,” read a letter, signed by Cupich, to parishioners and staff at the church. “It has become clear to me that Fr. Kalchik must take time away from the parish to receive pastoral support so his needs can be assessed.”
Monsignor James Kaczorowski, pastor of Queen of Angels parish, was appointed administrator of Resurrection Parish, effective Friday evening, according to the notice.
“I do not take this step lightly,” Cupich continued. “Rather, I act out of concern for Fr. Kalchik’s welfare and that of the people of Resurrection Parish. I have a responsibility to be supportive of our priests when they have difficulties, but I also have a duty to ensure that those who serve our faithful are fully able to minister to them in the way the Church expects.”
Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the move was not connected to Kalchik’s decision to destroy the banner, a move criticized by some in the community who called it an anti-gay hate crime.
“He is taking some time away from the parish,” Maselli said in an email Saturday. “This has been in the works for some time and is not directly due to the flag burning.”
Calls to Kalchik at the church on Saturday were not returned. His answering machine was full, a recorded message said.
The priest, who has said he was a victim of sexual abuse by a Chicago-area priest as a seminarian, has insisted that he does not hate the gay community.
“I’m about as much of a ‘gay basher’ as Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” the 56-year-old said in an interview with the Tribune on Friday. “Love the sinner, hate the sin — that’s as harsh as I get.”
The church, in its bulletin this week, said Kalchik has received many threats.
On Friday, Kalchik said he has had to have police escort him from the church to his home, out of fear he may be attacked. Earlier in the week, he said an intruder tried to break into the church.
Police did confirm that they were dispatched to the 3000 block of North Francisco Avenue just before 9 p.m. Monday because of a report of an open door. Officers checked and cleared the area, but no report was filed, police said.
It’s not immediately known whether Cupich’s decision to remove Kalchik is final, or whether Kalchik will be reinstated at the Avondale church. It is also not known what other issues the Archdiocese of Chicago was concerned about, or what role, if any, Kalchik will play in the church.
Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, was among those demanding the priest be fired earlier this week. On Wednesday, she organized a small protest of the banner’s torching outside the church. Those assembled carried rainbow flags and other signs bearing the message “Hate Has No Home here.”
Another protest was held at the church Saturday afternoon. Members of the Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate, which organized the demonstration, said the event lasted only an hour, before it was revealed by someone who came out of the church that Kalchik had been removed.
“Having him remain in a leadership position would be an affront to the LGBT community,” said Al Grippe, 40, a member of the group. “It was a clear act of hate, and he was rightfully removed.”
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