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Chicago Priest, Victim of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse, Burns LGBT Flag in 'Exorcism'

Christian cross on an LGBT rainbow flag.

Father Paul John Kalchik, himself a victim of a predatory Roman Catholic priest, recited a prayer of exorcism over a burning LGBT rainbow flag that "profaned" the image of the cross upon it. The allegedly pro-LGBT Cardinal Blase Cupich reportedly ordered Kalchik not to perform the ceremonial burning, but the priest carried it out anyway, in a private setting as opposed to the public event he had originally announced.

"We did so in a private way, a quiet way, so as not to bring the ire of the gay community down upon this parish," Kalchik told NBC News. "It’s our full right to destroy it, and we did so privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back." (Despite quoting Kalchik at length, NBC News made no mention of his own painful history as a victim of Catholic sexual abuse from predatory priests.)

The priest argued that burning the LGBT flag has a particular resonance while the Roman Catholic Church is raked with the recent scandals of yet more revelations of sexual abuse carried out by predatory priests and covered up by higher authorities. In this context, burning a symbol of homosexual "pride" is part of the broader "exorcism" of the sexual demons in the church.

Kalchik said the archdiocese had told him not to burn the flag in front of the church. "We can confirm that the pastor has agreed not to move forward with these activities," Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told the Windy City Times.

"We put an end to a depiction of our Lord's cross that was profane," Kalchik further told NBC News. The flag in question melded a rainbow — meant to symbolize the LGBT movement — with a cross. To use the image of the cross as anything other than a "reminder of our Lord’s passion and death," the priest explained, "is what we consider a sacrilege."

For this reason, the priest recited an exorcism prayer while burning the flag. "So in a quiet way we took matters into our own hands and said a prayer of exorcism over this thing," he said. "It was cut into seven pieces, so it was burned over stages in the same fire pit that we used for the Easter vigil mass."

Exorcism has a long history in the Roman Catholic Church, and earlier this year the Vatican hosted a training in the practice of casting out demons. A leading U.S. exorcist has decried the recent sexual abuse scandal as "demonic," and Father Kalchik suggested as much in his announcement for the LGBT flag-burning event.

The church bulletin for September 2 included a long message from the priest regarding Jesus' denunciation of the Pharisees and calling the parish to fasting and prayer, explicitly citing Jesus' explanation that some demons are only cast out by fasting and prayer. His protest had more to do with the predatory priest scandal than the LGBT movement.

"Blessedly, the old Pharisees disappeared in due time, but lamentably, the twisted psychological Pharisaical dynamic, of putting on a show of being faithful, a pretense of the faith, in order to receive human adulation continues in this fallen world," Kalchik wrote. "As the events of the last weeks in August played out, the Church itself is going through convulsions of ridding itself of today’s Pharisees in the attempt to purify itself."

He added that "these convulsions and this period of purification has been long overdue."

Father Kalchik twice referred to exorcism directly in this message. "So, ‘Thanks to be God!’ We find ourselves in a period of purification. Please pray, please fast. Paraphrasing Jesus in Matthew 12:43-45 ‘pray that this demon, once exorcized does not come back, after cruising the arid wastes, bringing with him seven more, making things even worse than before,'" he wrote.

He urged his parishioners to fast and pray for 40 days. "As Jesus said repeatedly in the course of his active ministry, 'some demons are only exorcized through fasting and prayer.' Let's fast, let's pray and God the Holy Spirit will purify the Church and restore it to holiness and orthodoxy."

The priest asked for prayer for "the RESTORATION of an orthodox Roman Catholic Church, and not some denigrated semblance of it run by some bad bishops. The focus must always be on bringing people to Christ and saving souls."

In his remarks, Kalchik also aimed an attack at Cardinal Blase Cupich, who infamously dismissed the sexual abuse scandal, saying Pope Francis has more important things to do.

"The pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church," Cupich told NBC Chicago late last month. "We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."

"We cannot let the current troubles keep us from our mission to go make more disciples for the Lord, nor should modern day distractions like global warming, LGBT 'rights' or even immigration issues ever take precedence over that mission," Father Kalchik wrote. This declaration was particularly significant, given his church's practice of including a Spanish language option.

The church had scheduled the flag-burning and exorcism for September 29, the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. On that day, the priest announced, "we will burn, in front of the church, the rainbow flag that was unfortunately hanging in our sanctuary during the ceremonial first Mass as Resurrection parish."

Resurrection Church was founded in 1991 in a merger of St. Veronica and St. Francis Xavier parishes. In the first mass celebrated at Resurrection, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Father Daniel Montalbano prayed in front of the cross-defiling rainbow flag, which was hoisted behind the altar.

As previously noted, the NBC News story quoted Kalchik but did not reference his long personal history of being abused by a predatory priest. In a letter to Pope Francis on September 6, Kalchik told his heart-wrenching story.

Kalchik was abused twice, first by a neighbor at the age of 11 and again by Father Larry Cozzi at age 19. His spiritual mentor reported the abuse, but the corrupt leaders in the Catholic Church did nothing to bring Cozzi to justice.

"My youth, my innocence, my virginity, all had been stolen from me by monstrous predatory gay men: one lay and one a priest," Kalchik wrote. He abandoned his calling to become a priest — for a time — and struggled with suicidal ideation due to this abuse.

Both Cozzi and the man who covered for him "would be given lavish funerals by the Church and buried in Catholic cemeteries, and yet both men were monsters, Judases of sorts." Years later, Kalchik would find other men abused by Cozzi, and learn of yet more men who had taken their own lives after being targeted by this predatory priest.

Later, Kalchik drove the notorious predatory priest Theodore Edgar McCarrick to an event. (McCarrick is the predatory priest whose abuse was covered up, even after former Vatican Ambassador Carlo Viganò claimed he reported it to Pope Francis.) Luckily, Kalchik had learned his lesson — but he recalled that McCarrick was essentially grooming him in order to abuse him.

"We cannot go on as if nothing has happened and nothing is seriously wrong," Kalchik wrote to Pope Francis. "That will not exorcise the Church of the demon of predatory gay sex abusers, and a gay mafia running through its ranks. They will try to wait until the storm dies down, and come back, bringing more friends."

While NBC News did give Kalchik numerous quotes, it never put his opposition to homosexual pride in the right context. This priest did not burn the LGBT flag and say a prayer of exorcism because he hates gay people or even just because he believes homosexual activity is sinful. He did so, in part, as a statement against the predator priest scandal, and as a call for Catholics to engage in fasting and prayer to exorcise these demons from their church.

None of this important background made it into NBC News's report. Instead, the outlet quoted Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an LGBT activist group which NBC News categorized as "a Catholic organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality."

Duddy-Burke called the exorcism of the flag "disrespectful and destructive."

"Those involved in this desecration are violating the core values of the Catholic faith," the LGBT activist inveighed, suggesting that the flag considered a sacrilege by Father Kalchik — a victim of sexual abuse by a predatory priest — is itself somehow holy. "They are hijacking the parish to further an extremist agenda, and damaging the community in doing so."

Is casting out the demon of sexual abuse by predatory priests an "extremist agenda?" Is a flag celebrating what the Bible clearly describes as sexual immorality somehow holy? Faithful Catholics — and conservative Christians who hold to the Bible — should be able to see that Duddy-Burke is engaging in the very activity she claims Father Kalchik is doing — "hijacking the parish to further an agenda."

Kalchik's action in burning and exorcising the rainbow flag has everything to do with the predatory priest scandal, and NBC News should have recognized the connection.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.