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Fr Paul Kalchik: A Kind Of Martyr

He burned a rainbow flag. Now Cardinal Cupich is persecuting priest for this blasphemy

Last week, when I heard news that Father Paul Kalchik and some fellow parishioners from his Chicago parish had burned a rainbow flag he found in the church’s storage, I knew things weren’t going to go well for him in Cardinal Bernardin’s old archdiocese, now administered by Cardinal Cupich. The Chicago Tribune provides context:

Kalchik said he twice was a victim of sexual abuse, the first time by a neighbor, when he was 11, and the second time by a Chicago-area priest when he was a teenager. The priest Kalchik names as the one who abused him died in the 1990s and has not been among those who have been named by the Diocese of Joliet or the Archdiocese of Chicago as a priest with substantiated allegations against them. Kalchik equates the flag with predatory behavior, he said.

The church bulletin further explains Kalchik’s thinking.

“The banner surfaced just when the news of the gay predation of former Cardinal McCarrick broke, and was found by a priest who was a himself a victim of a similar predator,” it read. “We cannot think this happened because God wanted the banner hung back up in our Church. The clandestine nature of the consensual homosexual sex going on among so many in the clergy allowed the intimidation of seminarians and rapes to be covered up also.

“If you don’t like Fr. Paul for burning that banner, at least ask yourself what it represented to him as a victim,” the letter added. It also published the first names of some of those who allegedly made threats, inviting the faithful to pray for the callers.

“Only divine intervention (a miracle) will get them to calm down enough to have a rational discussion,” the note said.

More context, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

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.

“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?”

Kalchik told the Tribune that he had been advised by the archdiocese’s vicar for priests not to burn the flag.

But he did it anyway, and now Cardinal Cupich has removed him from the parish. 

Church Militant, a conservative activist site, spoke directly to Fr. Kalchik:

The vicars for priests, acting on behalf of Cdl. Cupich, confronted Kalchik just as he was leaving to say 6 p.m. Mass, asking to meet with him privately. Kalchik refused to meet alone, instead gathering parishioners to be witnesses to the exchange.

Lyle and Thomas made clear they were there on order of Cdl. Cupich, who insisted that Kalchik be sent to St. Luke Institute for his “psychiatric issues.” Both vicars for priests had also only days before threatened that Kalchik could have his faculties removed if he failed to comply with Cupich’s orders.

The orders came after parishioners burned a rainbow flag that once hung in the sanctuary back when Resurrection parish was designated Chicago’s “gay” parish. Church Militant broke the news on Sept. 15, which has since been reported on national news outlets, drawing widespread attention to the parish. The flag-burning event took place in spite of Cupich’s warnings to call it off. Kalchik himself did not burn the flag, but parishioners took things into their own hands and held the flag-burning ceremony themselves. In response to what Cupich saw as defiance, he ordered Kalchik to St. Luke (a treatment center with a notorious past, whose former CEO was convicted in 2014 of embezzling $200,000 dollars, which he spent on gay lovers).

“I made it clear to them that I was not just going to cave and walk away from being pastor here at Resurrection Parish, and I stated clearly: I was once worked over by an ordained minister of the Church; it’s not going to happen again,” Kalchik wrote. “I will not leave Resurrection Parish on my own accord.”

The Church Militant piece makes a very serious allegation against a deceased former pastor of that church:

“This was no regular rainbow flag, but a banner merging the Cross with the rainbow,” a parishioner explained. “It was not innocent. It was a signal that this parish would be the new ‘gay’ parish, as Fr. Daniel Montalbano’s previous church, St. Sebastian, home to gay Masses, had burned down.”

Montalbano was close friends with Cdl. Joseph Bernardin, who presided over Resurrection parish’s 1991 inaugural Mass, the rainbow flag draped over the crucifix in the sanctuary. Montalbano was a known homosexual, holding gay parties in the parish basement. He died an untimely death at age 50, his body found in his rectory bedroom hooked up to a sex machine.

A parish staff member who was eyewitness to the event spoke with Church Militant and confirmed the account. After Montalbano failed to respond to knocking on his bedroom door, staff broke down the door to find Montalbano naked and still attached to the contraption. The archdiocese covered up the incident, reporting that Montalbano had died from a “heart attack,” offering him a priest’s funeral shortly afterward.

I looked around online to find out if there was more information about Father Montalbano and this allegation. I discovered something in a big file of legal documents related to a 2005 sex abuse settlement between the Archdiocese of Chicago and the victim of Jesus “Jesse” Garza, a former priest of the archdiocese. Look:

Also in the file, this internal archdiocesan document:

Dan Coughlin is Father Dan Coughlin, who at the time was vicar of priests for the Archdiocese (and who was much later accused of covering up for abuse). Note the first starred point in Father Coughlin’s letter. What are these horrible objects, “hopefully never to be found” — these objects that were so many in number that they filled his van more than once? Was it a sex machine of some sort? Sex toys? Pornography? All of these?

Something evil happened in that rectory, connected to Father Montalbano — something the vicar of priests at the time wanted buried. We have it in writing. But what was it?

On November 20, 2008, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said:

“We have no record and are not aware of any situation where Father Coughlin withheld any information about sexual misconduct of priests. It is unconscionable that an accusation would be made against someone without any documentation offered at all.”

Well, let’s ask: what were the things in the rectory that Father Coughlin was eager to have Father Garza dispose of, “hopefully never to be found”? Did they indicate sexual misconduct by Father Garza?

This is all important context for understanding why Father Kalchik did what he did. Father Montalbano was the one who, supported by Cardinal Bernardin, installed the rainbow flag with a cross on it as a symbol of what he wanted Resurrection parish to be. What was going on behind the scenes at that parish? What did that priest leave behind that was so wicked that the vicar for priests wanted them hidden forever?

And does the nature of those objects, and the use to which Father Montalbano put them, tell us why Father Kalchik said exorcism prayers over the burning of that rainbow totem? I think the answer is yes. Father Kalchik’s deed occurred within a context, and within a history that the Archdiocese of Chicago would no doubt prefer not to be discussed.

It ought to be discussed. Loud and clear. In a September 2 church bulletin, Father Kalchik made it clear that he believes the Catholic Church is being purified now. He wrote:

It bears repeating: the rainbow flag he burned was not just any rainbow flag. It was one that Montalbano installed over the altar as a sign of that parish’s dedication to merging homosexuality and Christianity.

Here’s part of Father Dwight Longenecker’s take on the Kalchik situation:

But let’s step back from the sensational and try to take the very best possible view of this incident. Let’s give Cardinal Cupich and the Chicago diocesan authorities every possible benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume the Fr Kalchik does have a history of unstable behavior. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that he is some sort of wild eyed conservative homophobic radical who needs taming. Let’s also assume that Cardinal Cupich is a good and caring pastor for his clergy. Let’s assume what he did was a last resort after a long process of dialogue and listening, and that he decided for the best interests of everyone that Fr Kalchik needed a time of rest and re-evaluation. Let’s assume that Michael Voris is throwing gas on the fire, that the parishioners are exaggerating the foul nature of the event and that Fr Kalchik is not on the lam, but has simply agreed to leave and take a vacation while things blow over.

Even if we give it the best possible gloss this is still an unbelievably monstrous way for Cardinal Cupich to behave. Here’s why:

Read it all. Especially this part:

6. Is Cardinal Cupich so completely unaware that he and the rest of the red robes are perceived as sixteenth century prelates–living in their palaces, jet setting off to Rome and mouthing pious words about immigrants and climate change while in fact an increasing number of the faithful regard them as corrupt, devious, Machiavellian Renaissance cardinals desperate to defend themselves and deflect all blame no matter what? Did he think threatening a faithful priest would help?

7. We’re all about building bridges and listening aren’t we? So you build bridges and listen by threatening police action and eviction?

8. The threat of police action was bad enough, but what about the threat of “removal to a pastoral center for psychiatric evaluation”? This is the stuff of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the re-education camps of the Gulag. Is this what will happen to anyone who dissents from the gay agenda? That’s what it feels like.

9. This disaster contributes to the impression that the whole hierarchy from the Pope downward are intent on continuing to cover for gay sex abusers, and they will take every measure possible to shut down dissent from their disastrous decisions.

That’s exactly it. There will be a much persecution against orthodox Catholics coming from inside the Church than outside of it.

I think we can concede that Father Kalchik’s action was rash, and arguably imprudent given that the Archdiocese had warned him not to do it. But this is how Cardinal Cupich responds? This, in a time in the Church’s life when it is becoming ever clearer that many in the Church’s senior leadership are gay, and devoted to protecting other gays in power. Cardinal McCarrick is a condensed symbol of so much of the corruption in the Catholic Church.

Notice this, from a Chicago transgender activist:


Cardinal Cupich jumps when people like that want to see him. Here’s an irony: according to that entire Twitter thread, that same transgender activist was so upset by Kalchik’s burning the rainbow-flag totem that he/she left the Catholic Church and became a Unitarian.

We can argue about the prudence of Father Kalchik’s deed, but it seems to me to be in the same spirit as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s whistleblowing: an irregular action that exposes deep corruption in the Church. The fact that Cardinal Cupich comes down on Father Kalchik like a sledgehammer for blaspheming against homosexuality is a clear sign of the situation within the institutional Church, at least in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

There will be more Father Kalchiks to come. And they will need faithful lay Catholics to protect and support them. Start building those networks now. Cardinal Cupich has made Father Kalchik a “white martyr” — a Christian who has not shed blood (therefore not a “red martyr”), but who has otherwise lost everything for standing up for the truths proclaimed by the faith.

Here are some powerful words from a Catholic bishop, spoken over 20 years ago:

[T]he deficits were too obvious: exhaustion of the faith, decline in vocations, lowering of moral standards even among men of the Church, an increasing tendency towards violence, and much else. The words of the Bible and of the Church Fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive.

Those words come from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, taken from Salt Of The Earth (p. 82), his 1996 book-length interview with Peter Seewald.

UPDATE: A parish priest e-mails:

There is nothing that the laity can do to protect priests.  Bishops have total authority over us.  We can certainly walk away.  We can leave.  But Kalchick is a great example of what happens when a priest stands up to his bishop’s agenda.  He’s probably done as a priest.

He can submit to St. Luke’s and get the evaluation, but St. Luke’s has an alliance with the bishops as well.  It’s the bishops who pay the bill.  When a priest goes there the priest must sign a release for everything he discusses to be turned over to the bishop and the diocese.  So how is he supposed to deal with any real psychological issues he might have knowing that the data is going to be sent back to the bishop and put into files or even potentially released or used against him?  Point being, the priest isn’t free.  It’s a coercive environment.  It’s rigged against priests and the information can be used by bishops to continue to manipulate those priests for years to come, all under the guise of “I just want Fr. X to be healthy.”  What they are really after is reconditioning priests to act within a particular safe metric to avoid bad publicity or cause problems.  Sounds a bit Orwellian doesn’t it?

Another side of this is that bishops have to hold liability insurance on their priests and if the priests have some kind of HR problem or Occupational Problem in their parish, the insurance companies are demanding bishops send them to places like St. Luke’s for a kind of “reconditioning therapy” that they don’t actually need.  The priests are not actually in any kind of need of psychological assistance, but for the Diocese to continue to have the covered with liability insurance the insurance company puts pressure on the bishop for them to demonstrate that they have taken measures to lessen liability.  A St. Luke’s program of 6 months of incarceration and therapy with 5 years of outpatient programming is just such a program.  All of this goes into the priest’s file and is held against him the rest of his career to be trotted out any time he gets out of line.

Notice, none of this has to do with the abuse of children.  Perhaps some with moral failure or bad decisions.  Maybe decisions that would cause a layperson to lose their job.  But in the priesthood, you get the shame of six months of incarceration in a lock-down facility and forced psychological treatment that even these facilities know you do not need.  But they participate in the sham because it’s big revenue and they are cashing in on the bishop’s need to cover their liability.  This is happening in large numbers throughout the country to priests.