* Chicago Catholic priest Michael Pfleger has been an institution in state and local politics for decades, so his suspension by Cardinal George is news for this venue…
Cardinal Francis George suspended Rev. Michael Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina Catholic Church and barred him from performing Catholic sacraments over public statements Pfleger made about a possible reassignment.
In a letter from George to Pfleger released to the media on Wednesday, the Cardinal said Pfleger’s public remarks that he would leave the Catholic Church rather than accept a position outside of St. Sabina led to his decision.
“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.
* The Cardinal released the letter (read it here) to the media before Pfleger got it “to avoid misrepresentation and manipulation on anyone’s part,” he wrote. That didn’t sit well at St. Sabina…
Associate Minister Kimberly Lymore declined to comment on the letter’s contents but claimed media members received the letter before Father Pfleger did.
“That’s a lack of respect,” she said. “He was ambushed. He’s spent the last 36 years in this archdiocese, given his life to this community, to the church. To be treated like this is unfair.”
During the flap over his possible assignment to Leo, Pfleger appeared on the “Smiley & West” public radio program that he had been banned from speaking at events in the archdiocese and blamed pressure from conservative Catholics and the National Rifle Association for his most recent clash with George.
“I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church,” Pfleger said. “If they say ‘You either take this principalship of (Leo High) or pastorship there or leave,’ then I’ll have to look outside the church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. I believe my calling is to be a voice for justice. I believe my calling is to preach the Gospel. In or out of the church, I’m going to continue to do that.”
In a later interview with the Tribune, Pfleger clarified that he feels called to preach and push for social justice in a Catholic context. He said he loves the Catholic Church and prefers to stay there, but he would not go to Leo full time.
“I’ve always said I could not do something that I don’t feel called or equipped to do,” he told the Tribune. “A full-time position at Leo is not something I’m equipped to do. I think Leo has made it clear they don’t see any need for me to come there. For both sides, it would be a lose-lose.”
* More background…
Pfleger has gained national attention for his protests on everything from gun violence to drug paraphernalia to Jerry Springer’s television show, and he has often appeared with major civil rights leaders.
Pfleger, who is white and runs a largely black parish, also has made racial equality a large part of his mission. He often wears African-style robes during services, and a mural of a black Jesus is behind the altar. Both his adopted sons are black.
It has long appeared he has had a strained relationship with the Chicago Archdiocese, which opposed his decision to adopt children.
* Kimberly Lymore, the Associate Minister at the Faith Community of St. Sabina, read a statement to the media yesterday…
On March 11, 2011, Fr. Pfleger met with Cardinal George where he was asked to take over as president of Leo High School.
On March 19, 2011, Fr. Pfleger sent a letter to Cardinal George saying that he was neither qualified nor experienced being president of a high school but that he was willing to help Leo High School in any way that he could
According to Lymore, there has been no further communication between Pfleger and George since that exchange, despite requests from the church’s cabinet and leadership team.
“[Pfleger] spent the last 36 years in this Archdiocese, given his life to this community to the church, and to be treated like this is unfair; to be given a letter and then he doesn’t even want to — the cardinal doesn’t want to discuss it with him — that’s not fair,” said Lymore.