AVONDALE — The archbishop of Chicago has removed an Avondale priest from his church after it was revealed that he burned a gay flag on church grounds.
In a letter dated Sept. 21, Cardinal Blase Cupich said Rev. Paul Kalchik has been replaced by Msgr. James Kaczorowski, pastor of Queen of Angels Parish, effectively immediately. The move comes days after Kalchik came under fire for burning the flag.
“For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues at Resurrection Parish,” Cupich wrote.
“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,” Cupich continued.
Kalchik burned the flag next to Resurrection Catholic Church in a prayer of exorcism Sept. 14. The flag, which had been in storage for a decade prior to the incident, depicted a cross superimposed over a rainbow.
In interviews with various media outlets, Kalchik took issue with Cupich who he claims is trying to minimize the Catholic church’s sex abuse crisis. He said he himself was a victim of sexual abuse by a Chicago priest.
“Excuse me, but almost all of the [abuse] cases are, with respect to priests, bishops and whatnot, taking and using other young men sexually. It’s definitely a gay thing,” he told the Sun-Times.
Anne Maselli, spokeswoman for the archdicoese, said Kalchik is not being removed solely because of the flag burning.
“As you will see in the letter, this decision has been in motion for some time and is not directly due to the flag burning,” Maselli wrote in an email.
Cupich, in his letter, said, “I do not take this step lightly. Rather, I act out of concern for Fr Kalchik’s welfare and that of the people of Resurrection Parish.”
He goes on, saying, “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.”
The flag burning incited anger among members of the community, including Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who is openly lesbian.
“To think this hatred is being spread in our neighborhood is not acceptable,” Mell, whose ward includes the church, said at a press conference last week.
In response to Kalchik’s removal, Mell issued the following statement: “I want to thank Cardinal Cupich for taking swift action and for listening to the concerns of our community. I am encouraged by the actions that have been taken by the Cardinal and the archdiocese to be respectful and inclusive of all Catholics. We are thinking about the parishioners during this time of transition.”
Kalchik told the Tribune he’s being escorted home by police officers out of fear he’ll be attacked.
He said an intruder tried to break into the church earlier this week. Police confirmed officers were called to the church on just before 9 p.m. Sept. 17 because of a report of an open door.
“It was investigated and cleared without a report,” police spokeswoman Jennifer Bryk said.
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