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Cardinal George ‘very sorry’ for comment about Ku Klux Klan

Cardinal Francis George  |  Sun-Times files

Cardinal Francis George | Sun-Times files

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Updated: February 8, 2012 8:10AM

‘It was an inflammatory example . . . it occasioned a lot of hurt for which I’m very sorry.”

In an archdiocesan conference room, Cardinal Francis George spoke of his great regret about the firestorm his words produced right before Christmas.

Late Friday evening the cardinal sat down at Quigley Seminary to talk about what he said, what he meant and what will happen next.

In a discussion of next summer’s Gay Pride Parade and whether the parade route might interfere with those going to Sunday Mass, the cardinal last month told reporters from WFLD-TV, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”

The cardinal’s words cut sharply. And the outrage was immediate.

The Rainbow Sash Movement, Equality Illinois and other gay and civil rights organizations planned to protest outside Holy Name Cathedral absent an apology from George.

Late Friday, however, Rainbow Sash’s executive director said the group accepted George’s apology, canceled their plans to protest Sunday and expected others to do the same.

“He needs to be responsible for the words he throws out publicly,” said Joe Murray, Executive Director or the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organization of LGBT Catholics. “This is has caused a lot of anger in the community.”

The cardinal by early Friday evening had issued a formal apology. And he discussed at length his regret over the pain his words had caused.

“My oldest nephew whom I love dearly, is a gay man, generous with the poor,” said the 75-year-old George.

“We disagree on some fundamental realities but he’s part of who we are. . . . To say something like that [making a connection between the KKK and gay rights activism] is abhorrent to me and I find it truly disturbing.”

Cardinal George insisted he did not mean to compare gays and lesbians to the Ku Klux Klan. But, rather, he said he was trying to explain the evolution of anti-Catholic sentiments that lead to a “denial of Catholic liberty.” The legislature’s passage of a law legalizing civil unions was cited by the cardinal as a prime example of his concern.

The possibility that this summer’s parade might prevent parishioners from making their way through traffic to Sunday Mass was the genesis of his concern in the WFLD-TV interview.

This most recent controversy follows closely on the heels of another firestorm. In early November, the cardinal fiercely criticized Gov. Pat Quinn for agreeing to present an award at Personal PAC, a pro-choice organization, to Jennie Goodman, a rape survivor.

“Governor Quinn has gone beyond a political alignment with those supporting the legal right to kill children in their mother’s wombs to rewarding those deemed successful at this terrible work,” read a statement from Illinois bishops.

It turned out that Ms. Goodman had never had an abortion. The Archdiocese was forced to backtrack.

“You say things you live to regret,” said the cardinal, “either because they’re misinterpreted or they are really wrong.”

But returning to his abiding concern for what he views as increasing restrictions on the ministry the Catholic Church, the cardinal added, “Fear makes for poor speech but that fear is very real.”

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