What is it about Chicago and out-there priests?
First, we heard all about crazy radical leftist Fr. Michael Pfleger during the Obama years, probably the biggest social justice warrior the Church has in its ranks, a guy who consorts with Louis Farrakhan. Now we learn of a priest who must be about as far away from that end of the spectrum as possible: Fr. Paul Kalchik.
Kalchik made headlines by burning a rainbow gay banner in a ceremonial church fire pit, in defiance of his own archdiocese, which forbade him from doing it. His aim was to protest the Church pedophilia and pederasty scandals, whose victims were overwhelmingly male, bringing up the taboo of homosexuality in the clerical ranks, which he argues is at the heart of it, and the archdiocese is not addressing. According to the Sun-Times:
A North Side priest who says he "can't sit well" with Cardinal Blase Cupich burned a gay-friendly flag outside his Avondale church last week – against the wishes of the cardinal he claims is trying to minimize the clergy sex-abuse crisis.
Rev. Paul Kalchik says the banner, featuring a cross superimposed over a rainbow, had been featured prominently in the sanctuary at Resurrection Catholic Church but had been taken down and was forgotten in storage at the parish at 3043 N. Francisco for more than a decade.
Kalchik led seven parishioners in a prayer of exorcism Friday, and the flag was burned inside a portable fire pit placed the schoolyard next to the church. The ashes of the flag now rest in a church compost heap.
It's a tough issue, because Catholics are not anti-gay, nor do they wish ill on the gay community. Yet Church teachings remain that homosexual acts are sinful (same as heterosexual acts outside marriage), and now there's a vast scandal engulfing the Church with mostly male victims, the elephant in the room – which suggests there may well be a "lavender mafia" at work at the highest levels of the Church. Cardinal McCarrick, for one, who preyed on young male seminarians, certainly sounds like the kind of guy who might have run one.
And with the Church putting out a lot of signals suggesting that homosexual activity is "wink-wink" O.K. – such as the rather politicized rainbow banners at the altar and the homoerotic murals abroad – at a minimum, it seems there's a pretty significant failure from the Church's leaders – and they still don't want to address it. They'd rather carry on as they always have, as well as retain the high esteem of secular gay activists, and never mind that the gay aspect of the scandal probably needs to be at least discussed openly.
So Kalchik's protest comes across as just the sort of mop in the face they actually need.
The startling thing is that protests of this kind never happen in the Church. We are polite in our church; we don't even talk in the pews. (A Catholic visiting a Protestant church is always startled by the talking in the pews.) This looks like something redolent of the "build my church" radicalism of St. Francis, who pretty well challenged the complacent Church hierarchy gone decadent in a bid to return it to holiness. It looks as though the challenges of St. Teresa of Avila against the soggy Church bureaucrats, or the challenge of St. Cajetan of Naples, who went after clericalism as a means of heading off Martin Luther.
By some reports, the archdiocese has called Kalchik crazy and in need of a psychologist, which illustrates its inability to address the points he's raising without ad hominem attacks. We can probably expect more of this stuff from those running the archdiocese, because it changes the subject instead of addresses the issue.
Kalchik may well be unbalanced in some ways – he says he was the victim of two gay abusers himself, one of them inside the Church. But it's such people, when radicalized, who can throw the ball into motion. Kalchik's act was amazingly radical, and it's being talked about. What's more, it's done against a complacent Church bureaucracy that simply wishes the particular nature of the problem Kalchik is bringing up would go away and they can get back to their award dinners.
All I can think is, big things have happened in the Church when little guys have talked back. There has been a lot of talk in the Church about getting input from the laity, yet we all expect that they will find a way to silence us in this era, and they'll go back to doing things the way they always do. This wild and crazy act in Chicago suggests that the silencing is over and a giant is awakening. The little guy is talking back. It's radicals like this who make history, and that's why this case is worth watching.