In a church bulletin posted this month, the Rev. Paul Kalchik, a Roman Catholic priest at Resurrection Parish in Chicago, announced that he would burn a rainbow pride flag that had once been prominently displayed at the church.
“On Saturday, September 29, the Feast of Saint Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, 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,” Kalchik, who joined the church 11 years ago, wrote.
A footnote on his announcement stated, “US Church homosexual scandal is a sequel to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
When the Archdiocese of Chicago got wind of Kalchik’s plans to burn the rainbow flag, it told him he could not proceed. "We can confirm that the pastor has agreed not to move forward with these activities,” Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told The Windy City Times.
But despite the archdiocese’s request, Kalchik and some of his parishioners did move forward and burned the flag last Friday.
“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 said in a lengthy interview Monday with NBC News. “It’s our full right to destroy it, and we did so privately because the archdiocese was breathing on our back.”
“We put an end to a depiction of our Lord's cross that was profane,” he added, noting the flag had a cross and a rainbow intertwined. To use the image of the cross as anything other than a “reminder of our Lord’s passion and death,” he said, “is what we consider a sacrilege.”
Kalchik said that the archdiocese had told him not to burn the flag in front of the church, as planned.
“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.”
When asked about his views toward homosexuality, Kalchik was unequivocal, saying he’s “quite literal” when it comes to what the Bible says in Leviticus, Corinthians and Ephesians. Leviticus 20:13, according to the King James Bible, states: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality, called the Resurrection Parish’s flag burning “disrespectful and destructive.”
“Those involved in this desecration are violating the core values of the Catholic faith,” she told NBC News. “They are hijacking the parish to further an extremist agenda, and damaging the community in doing so.”
Duddy-Burke added that rainbow flags have come to symbolize a “sense of welcome” to LGBTQ people of faith and their families.
“When we see this symbol flying at our churches, we know this will be a place of welcome and affirmation and a place where God’s creativity is truly celebrated,” she said. “As Catholics, we work for the day when all of us feel fully welcomed in our church, and are able to participate in the sacramental life of our church as equals.”
In response to NBC News' request for comment on the flag burning, Anne Maselli, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago said the archdiocese was "unaware that this occurred."
"We are following up on the situation," Maselli said. "As Catholics we, the Archdiocese of Chicago, affirm the dignity of all persons."