Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fr. Pfleger's Chickens Have Come Home To Roost

We mentioned a while back that this might be coming. It did. Thanks to our co-author Karl for breaking this story.

Citing what he called threats from the Rev. Michael Pfleger to leave the church, Cardinal Francis George has removed the outspoken priest from St. Sabina parish and has suspended his "sacramental faculties as a priest."

Now, it's one thing to remove a guy like Fr. Pfleger from his priestly duties. It's something else to see it go down like this. Check out Cardinal George's letter:

Pfleger had publicly feuded with the cardinal about possibly being reassigned to Leo High School, telling a radio show recently that he would look outside the Catholic church if offered no other choice.

"If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish," George wrote in a letter dated today.

"A Catholic priest's inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop," the cardinal continued. "Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church.

"Many love and admire you because of your dedication to your people," the cardinal wrote. "Now, however, I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.

"With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended."

The cardinal ended the letter by saying, "This conflict is not between you and me; it's between you and the Church that ordained you a priest, between you and the faith that introduced you to Christ and gives you the right to preach and pastor in his name. If you now formally leave the Catholic Church and her priesthood, it's your choice and no one else's. You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements."

Holy smokes. This is about that closest thing to Becket with bell, book, and candle that we're liable to see these days. I noticed that the Tribune buried the part of the letter where it's indicated that Fr. Pfleger basically lied about how this whole issue of re-assignment was brought up.

"As you know, this was an honest offer, not driven by pressure from any group but by a pastoral need in the Archdiocese," George wrote. "You promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it."

The cardinal says his private conversation with Pfleger "was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to 'remove' you from Saint Sabina's. You know that priests in the Archdiocese are 'removed' only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor child or are guilty of financial malfeasance.

Fr. Pfleger's response to the transfer talk was to blame the NRA.

On the radio, Pfleger said conservative Catholics want to return St. Sabina, a mostly African-American parish, to the way it was before he got there nearly three decades ago and silence what they believe to be progressive messages from the pulpit.

For a couple of years, he said he has been the target of petitions and letter-writing campaigns by the NRA. Letters are often copied to the cardinal, Pfleger said.

"The NRA ... says I've been much too vocal about assault weapons and much too vocal about guns being registered and being accountable to gun owners," Pfleger said on the radio. "So all that combined and I guess the cardinal didn't have anything to do one morning and decided he wanted to get rid of me again."

How weird can you get?

Anyways, what's going to happen here is very significant. For a long time, the argument has been made that disciplining heretics and schismatics shouldn't be done because of the whole wheat/tares problem. Basically, by doing so, you run the risk of Catholics leaving the Church because of their attachment to these individuals and their whackjobbery. Of course, the counter-argument to this is that more damage is done by leaving these folks alone and letting them endanger so many souls with their heresy and schism, not to mention creating the impression that the Church might even be giving tacit approval to these false ideas by not acting to restrain them.

St. Sabina's is probably about to be a microcosm of how this issue plays out. I hope very much that the community there remembers that their allegiance is to Christ and His Church, not to some priest who attempted to proclaim disobedience to that same authority was a virtue.


Dual Role Grandma said...


Roisin said...

Wow! I'm really impressed by Cardinal George right now. Way to actually BE the shepherd.