A Catholic priest has burned an LGBTQ flag — despite being forbidden by his archbishop to do so.
Rev. Paul Kalchik torched the banner, which showed a cross in front of a rainbow, Friday outside of the Resurrection Catholic Church in Chicago, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. He did so after leading several worshippers in a prayer of exorcism.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, who heads the Archdiocese of Chicago, had previously instructed Kalchik that he "could not move forward with that planned activity," according to a Tuesday statement from Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
A reporter for Windy City Times, a local LGBTQ newspaper, had warned archdiocesan officials that the burning had been listed on a church bulletin for September 29 for the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael — a Christian festival also known as Michaelmas.
Despite the cardinal's order, Kalchik went ahead with the burning "in a quiet way," as he put it, at a date earlier than the one on the bulletin.
"That banner and what it stood for doesn’t belong to the Archdiocese or Cardinal Cupich. It belongs to the people of this parish who paid for it,” Kalchik said. “What have we done wrong other than destroy a piece of propaganda that was used to put out a message other than what the church is about?"
The flag had previously hung in the church; it was installed in 1991 as a sign of welcome to queer people of faith, but it was eventually moved to storage.
It was not the only pro-LGBTQ object Kalchik destroyed. After he became pastor of the church in 2007, he found rainbow candles and vestments in storage and destroyed those as well. Kalchik said it was a "just by accident" that he had missed the flag, which was rediscovered after a recent cleaning.
Kalchik, who has written that he was sexually abused by a neighbor as a child and a priest as a young man, told the Sun-Times that the epidemic of such abuse in the Catholic Church is "definitely a gay thing." Previously, Cupich had argued against the connection between gay priests and sexual abuse being advanced by conservative factions of the church. Kalchik, however, said of homosexuality, "Scripture is crystal-clear. It’s against God’s law."
In August, Kalchik wrote a letter to Pope Francis of the need for the church to "exorcise" its "gay mafia." He wrote, "We cannot go on as if nothing has happened and nothing is seriously wrong. That will not exorcise the Church of the demon of predatory gay sex abusers, and a gay mafia running through its ranks."
Chris Pett, president of Dignity USA, which advocates for LGBTQ acceptance in the church, told the Sun-Times Kalchik is a “renegade priest pushing an extreme agenda.”
“He’s hijacking the parish and trampling on core Catholic values,” Pett added. “The archdiocese needs to denounce this in the strongest possible terms.”