CATHOLIC GAY ACTIVIST BLASTS CHICAGO’S CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE
For Immediate Release Contact: Rick Garcia
February 14, 2004 312-560-0405
CATHOLIC GAY ACTIVIST BLASTS CHICAGO’S CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE
CHICAGO – The Roman Catholic director of Illinois’ statewide gay rights organization issued a blistering criticism of Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s opposition to the gay and lesbian civil rights bill at a gay rights rally at the Cardinal’s residence.
“As a Roman Catholic I am embarrassed and ashamed that there is a need to protest the cardinal’s position on gay and lesbian civil rights,” said Rick Garcia, director of Equality Illinois. “Instead of standing on the side of justice, honesty and mercy, the cardinal promotes discrimination, abuse and violence against gay people.”
Cardinal George, through the Illinois Catholic Conference, is opposing legislation to add sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights Act. Discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation is legal in 101 of Illinois’ 102 counties. More than two hundred gay rights supporters protested at the cardinal’s mansion on Saturday.
“Cardinal George issues statements telling us that gay people should be treated with dignity and should not suffer discrimination or violence. Nonetheless, his actions belie his words. The Cardinal’s opposition to gay civil rights protections gives tacit approval to such discrimination and violence,” charged Garcia. “You can’t say you love and respect someone and then find it acceptable to deny them housing and employment simply because of who they are. There is no love without justice.”
Garcia acknowledged that the Cardinal has the right and the responsibility to present Church teaching clearly and concisely but insisted “he can not and should not use Church teaching as a battering ram to beat down gay people, our families and our rights”.
“We do not stand alone in our criticisms of Cardinal George. Twenty-six Roman Catholic pastors have written to George chastising him for his ‘abusive language’ with regard to gay people and two dozen religious orders of nuns as well as the leaders of the United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches have endorsed the gay civil rights bill,” Garcia noted. “We do this not because we waver in our commitment to Christ and the Church but precisely because of that commitment.
”Let us remember that at certain times in our country’s history Roman Catholic Bishops invoked the teachings of our Church to oppose the abolition of slavery, oppose the right of women to vote and to oppose integration,” said Garcia. “George’s position is based less on a desire to uphold Church teaching and more on rank anti-gay sentiment. He should be ashamed, but bigots seldom are.”
Garcia’s statement is follows:
Statement at Demonstration at Cardinal George’s Residence
February 14, 2004
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Yahweh said: The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice and let the oppressed go free…If you put an end to oppression and every gesture of contempt then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon.
A reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
And Jesus said: How terrible for you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you give to God one tenth of your herbs and seasonings but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice, mercy and honesty…You strain a gnat out of your drink but you swallow a camel. Hypocrites! You clean the outside of your cup, while the inside is full of what you have gotten by violence and selfishness. Clean what is inside the cup first and then the outside will be clean too.
As a Roman Catholic I am embarrassed, angered and ashamed to be here today in front of the home of a man who should be on the side of justice, honesty and mercy but instead promotes discrimination, abuse and violence against GLBT people.
We all know the anti-gay Kansas preacher the Reverend Fred Phelps and his rantings on how “God hates fags”, “I hate fags”, “Fags burn in Hell”.
I respect Fred Phelps more than I respect Cardinal Francis George. Fred is upfront and honest about his animosity toward gay people. Cardinal George, on the other hand, tells us that he loves us, that gay people should be treated with respect and dignity. And yet, his actions belie his words.
Cardinal George, you can’t say you love someone and then find it acceptable to deny them housing because they are lesbian, you can’t say you love someone and then find it acceptable to deny them employment because they are gay. You can’t say you love someone and then promote lies and myths and stereotypes about them, their lives and their families. In the words of St. Augustine “There is no love without justice”.
Let us remember that at certain times in the history of our country Roman Catholic bishops invoked the teachings of our holy mother, the Church, to oppose the abolition of slavery. They invoked the teachings of the Church to oppose women’s right to vote and some even invoked the teachings of the Church to oppose the education of black children, to suppress religious orders of black nuns and to oppose integration. All positions that we find morally repugnant today.
Let me be clear. Cardinal George has the right, the responsibility and the obligation to present Catholic Church teaching clearly and concisely. But he cannot and should not be selective in his presentation or focus of that teaching. Nor should that presentation be used to approve and promote anti-gay sentiment. Nor should Church teaching be used as a battering ram to beat down gay people and our families.
We do not stand alone in our criticism of the cardinal’s opposition to the basic civil rights of GLBT Illinoisans.
More than two-dozen religious orders of nuns and priests in Illinois are on record as supporting the nondiscrimination bill currently before the Illinois senate. And, recently twenty-six Roman Catholic priests in the diocese criticized the Cardinal for his abusive language with regard to gay and lesbian people and our families. They do so not because they waver in their commitment to Christ and their Church but precisely because of that commitment. The Cardinal is outside mainstream Catholic thought on the rights of glbt people.
We are entering the season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance. We call upon Cardinal George to reflect on his behavior, to have a conversion of heart and we urge him to repent and believe the Gospel.