A Chicago priest has reportedly been banished from his parish and forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after members of his parish staged an anti-sex abuse protest last week, burning a gay pride flag found in the Church’s storeroom — a remnant from when the church was named an LGBT outreach parish decades ago.
Fr. Paul Kalchik was reportedly sexually assaulted twice by men, once by a neighbor when he was 11 and a second time by a priest when he was 19. After such an experience, he would be understandably skeptical of the Church’s handling of abuse, particularly in light of allegations that high-ranking Catholic clergy ignored and even covered up multiple allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and even elevated McCarrick to the position of senior adviser to Pope Francis.
Fr. Kalchik did not, it seems, take part in the anti-sex abuse protest, where parishoners burned a flag that merged the cross with the gay pride rainbow, but he did not stop the protest, even when pressured by Chicago’s Cardinal Blaise Cupich.
Last week, Fr. Kalchik was denied a petition to be re-assigned to his home parish in Gaylord, Michigan. Friday, Catholic bloggers reported that Fr. Kalchik was visited by two representatives of the Chicago Archdiocese who requested a private meeting. Fr. Kalchik was subsequently ordered out as pastor of Resurrection Catholic Church and referred to St. Luke’s, a treatment center where he is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Cardinal Cupich confirmed Fr. Kalchik’s removal in a letter to parishoners, claiming that Fr. Kalchik “must take time away from the parish” out of “concern for Fr. Kalchik’s welfare.” Cardinal Cupich added that the step was taken to “ensure that those who serve our faithful are fully able to minister to them in the way the Church expects,” an apparent reference to the anti-sex abuse protests.
The archidocese claimed to the Chicago Tribune that the removal was in motion before Fr. Kalchik’s parishioners engaged in protest, and that their concerns reach further back than recent incidents.
Cardinal Cupich appears, however, to be responding to calls from Chicago government officials and gay rights activists to “fire” Fr. Kalchik for what some in the community called a “hate crime.”
Fr. Kalchik told the Tribune Friday that he has no hate for members of the LGBT community: “I’m about as much of a ‘gay basher’ as Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” he said. “Love the sinner, hate the sin — that’s as harsh as I get.”
He alleged in a note in the church’s Sunday bulletin that he, on the other hand, has received threats, and that the church has been vandalized in response to the demonstration.
Fr. Kalchik also says he was ordered out of his position under threat, and would not leave Resurrection voluntarily.
“I made it clear to [representatives of the archdiocese] that I was not just going to cave and walk away from being pastor here at Resurrection Parish, and I stated clearly: I was once worked over by an ordained minister of the Church; it’s not going to happen again,” Kalchik wrote. “I will not leave Resurrection Parish on my own accord.”
The incident is shocking, not just because of the timing, but because of how harshly Fr. Kalchik appears to have been treated. Although Cardinal Cupich claims a pastoral duty to “care” for his priests, Fr. Kalchik appears to have been swiftly punished for actions which are within his right; priests do not give up their freedom of speech when they take their vows. In fact, Fr. Kalchik, as Fr. Dwight Longnecker points out, is well within his rights to dissent even from the actions of his own Church when those actions are contrary to Church teachings.
Cardinal Cupich has been at the center of the Church’s sex abuse controversy, telling media after allegations that the Vatican covered for sex abusers that the Pope had “priorities” other than investigating claims of clerical cover-ups, like climate change and immigration.