Fr. Pfleger suspended by Card. George

Fr. Michael PflegerRemember the Chicago – and I say Chicago rather than Catholic – priest Fr. Michael Pfleger?

A reader alerted me to this headline and story in the Chicago Tribune:

Cardinal suspends Pfleger: ‘You are not able to pastor a Catholic parish’

Citing what he called threats from the Rev. Michael Pfleger to leave the church, [which is why I said “Chicago priest”] Cardinal Francis George has removed the outspoken priest from St. Sabina parish and has suspended his “sacramental faculties as a priest.” [Not just removed from the parish, but also suspended.]

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[My understanding is that Pfleger has never been in another parish.  He was assigned there as a new priest and has never been anywhere else.]

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. [Pretty hard to disagree with His Eminence.  And if Cardinals are weak friends, they can be powerful enemies.]

“A Catholic priest’s inner life is governed by his promises, [Remember, diocesan priests make promises, not vows.] 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.

Kimberly Lymore, associate minister at St. Sabina Parish, read the following statement early tonight:

“On March 11, 2011, Father Pfleger met with Cardinal George, where he was asked to take over as president of Leo High School.

“On March 19, 2011, Father Pfleger sent a letter to Cardinal George saying 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.

“There has been no response by phone call or letter from the cardinal. Today Father Pfleger was called to a meeting at 4:30 at the Pastoral Center. At that meeting, Father Pfleger was given a letter that he was suspended and Cardinal George did not want to discuss it.

The leadership of Saint Sabina [?  An odd description.  What would that mean?  Who is running the place if not the pastor?  – That was a rhetorical question, of course.] will have an official response tomorrow. We are in shock. [Really?  I am shocked that it took so long.] For your information, the press received this letter before Father Pfleger and the church heard about it through press calls.”

Lymore said Pfleger was in the church tonight but he did not appear when the statement was read.

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 [NRA? LOL!] for his most recent clash with George.

I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church,” Pfleger said. [HEY, MICHAEL! It’s all up to YOU.] “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. [No.  That is not, in fact, the case.] I believe my calling is to be a pastor. [Pastor is both a technical term and a generic term.  The Cardinal decides whether you will be a pastor of a parish.] 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.”  [Don’t let that door hit you….]

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.” [It’s a foregone conclusion.]

On the radio, Pfleger said conservative Catholics [Ooooooo!] 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. [Remember the videos of this guy? Click HERE.]

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.”

But in his letter, the cardinal said he had no ulterior motives in wanting Pfleger at Leo.

“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.

“In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another according to the policies in place for the last forty years,” George wrote. “That process has now been short-circuited by your remarks on national radio and in local newspapers that you will leave the Catholic Church if you are told to accept an assignment other than as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish.”

Si tacuisses, parochus mansisses.

Sad business.  I never like seeing a priest in such a conflict wind up suspended.  But it sounds as if he stepped wayyyyy over the line in this case, by going to the press and saying he would leave the Church if he didn’t get his way.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. EXCHIEF says:

    Maybe Jeremiah Wright could use an associate once Pfleger leaves…and as Fr Z noted, “don’t let the door hit you….”

  2. The really puzzling aspect of this is what makes him qualified to be the principal of a Catholic high school. I certainly would not send my child to a high school run by such a character. Surely some sort of obscure, harmless chancery position could have been created, or maybe he could have been assigned as associate pastor in a more traditional parish under a young but orthodox pastor who doesn’t allow wireless microphones to be used.

  3. youngcatholicstl says:

    Stories like this make me terribly sad as a Catholic. I agree entirely that Fr. Pfleger has crossed the line here (and many times before), but it is terribly sad to see a priest take such a position. While I strongly disagree with many of Fr. Pfleger’s actions, the fact remains that he is a terribly charismatic speaker, and, with the proper focus, could be a wonderful force for conversion to the Catholic faith. It is sad to see the terrific talent he could be go wasted on petty politics and disunity. So sad on so many levels.

  4. Joan A. says:

    Overdue? About 30 years overdue. Cardinal George is a good and devout man, and possibly one of the most brilliant of the U.S. bishops. But why he allowed this dissident to make a mockery of the Faith for so many decades is hard to fathom. Perhaps because “Father” Phleger did marvelous work “community organizing”…he did help a rough area of Chicago improve with programs for the poor, etc. But the “priest” has been a blatant heretic, if not apostate, for ages. Big, big Obama supporter, that’s what Cardinal George “suspended” (2 weeks, was it?) him for last time.

    Then again, we don’t know what pressures were on the Cardinal to keep Phleger in place, he has received threats before; this is Chicago after all.

  5. Hieronymus says:

    I agree with Andrew. This priest has been living his own version of the Catholic faith for quite some time, and his inflammatory comments have been immensely scandalous. It seems like Card. George was simply trying to put him away quietly, but needed to put him somewhere that would not have been an obvious demotion. Sooooo, he is tapped to be the president of a Catholic school? It seems like we flush all of the trouble priests into the school system now. What happens to those poor kids that go on to be formed in Fr. Pfleger’s personal brand of Catholicism?

    His suspension is sad as every clerical suspension is, but I think it is the best case scenario here. At least now it is clear where he stands.

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    Nah, it takes very little talent to run your mouth in public like he has, and is apparently still doing.
    If he had to take a real job, where loyalty and productivity matter, he’d be in real trouble. I say let him leave and see what the real world, that he professes to know so much about, is like. He needs a good shock. Maybe it’ll set him straight.

  7. JohnMa says:

    The first thing that came to my mind after reading the headline was “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” After reading the article the next thing that came to my mind was what Andrew posted above. However, after thinking about it for a few minutes I think that Card. George might have known he would react like this when offered the position. Maybe Card. George knew that one way to get Pfleger to give him cover was to do this.

    Obviously this move is over a decade overdue but late is better than never. Also, I think we all need to pray for the new pastor of that parish. Imagine the work he will have on his hands. I am guessing every orthodox priest within a 100 miles of Chicago is running as hard as they can away from that assignment.

  8. Jack Hughes says:

    What I don’t get is how he managed to stay in one Parish for 30 years, I’ve heard of Priests speculating that the restoration work they are overseeing will mean that they will problebly stay in place for another 5 or so years but 3o is very unusual.

    Having said that I think that it can be benificial; just think if a Priest were to stay in the same place or long periods of time (short of being elevated to the Episcopate) it might actually make him more of a Father of the Parish.

    BTW does anyone know why Priests have to play musical chairs every 5-6 years? In my diocese I believe we’re gearing up for another one (after only 2 years) when our Parishes are being merged.

  9. JohnMa says:

    The Sun-Times story says ““He was ambushed,” said Associate Pastor Kimberly Lymore…” So, looks like the good Father gave a female the title of Associate Pastor.

  10. Christo et Ecclesiae says:

    Could someone please help me out? I just visited the Saint Sabina website and thought I was mistaken… when I found out that it was his parish I was immediately led to scandal… it doesn’t even mention the word Catholic on the home page?

    Is it a Catholic parish? I thought it was a non-denomination church, without question!

    Oh Lord, I do not understand… if this is real, how has this parish existed as it has for so long? It isn’t in union with the Church! A “Third Day” church? Worship services? Sorry for seeming so confused, please someone, am I on the right website? He has adopted sons?

    All ye holy men and women, ora pro nobis.

  11. Jason Keener says:

    What is also scandalous in this story is that Cardinal George offered Father Pfleger a position at a Catholic high school. If Pfleger is unfit to pastor a parish because of his heretical positions, he is certainly unfit to be running a Catholic high school. Priests like Pfleger should not just be shuffled around from position to position.

    In any event, I am glad that Cardinal George finally suspended Pfleger. Let’s pray that Pfleger will now regain his senses and abandon his heresies.

  12. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Pfleger has run not such much a parish as a personality cult the past thirty years.

    Having suffered through three years in Chicago, it is refreshing to see some episcopal backbone. I will pray for all involved.

    Should he decide to turn his back:

    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man’s company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.

  13. Maltese says:

    I hope the door doesn’t hit too hard on his way out; good riddance! I only wish the Church had gonads of yore in rooting-out these vanguards!

  14. teaguytom says:

    I concur with Rob. Fr Pfleger’s tenure at Saint Sabina has turned it into a cult of personality. Saint Sabina’s is more like a black gospel church with Fr Pfleger as a self appointed reverend who yells from a pulpit. This is one of the reasons moving priests to new positions every so many years is actually good. Fr Pfleger should be given a desk job working for Cardinal George where he can’t play diva for the camera’s.

  15. truthfinder says:

    Wow, I just read through some of St. Sabina’s website – the horror! Yes, his vocalization about gun legislation probably went too far. I’m Canadian and don’t agree on gun toting rights like some Americans, however, having parishoners put up signs demanding no guns and then threatening to put people in jail, is not a mature or effective response to an important area for discussion.
    My question, though, is how on earth was he left in a parish for that long. I know before Vat II, it may have been more common, but should not be as it is now. Especially since he’s probably a “spirit of Vat II”-type guy, this should have been one of the changes he would have accepted. When a bishop sees that the congregation is getting a little too attached to the priest, any priest, they should really change the appointments to avoid nonsense like this.
    May God’s Will prevail in this!

  16. Yikes! The Cardinal wanted to send him to a high school?! What did those poor children do to deserve being threatened with the possibility of enduring the defiant ignorance of Fr. Pfleger?

  17. Sword40 says:

    I know the church moves at “glaciel” speed but this move was long over due. The glacier melted away years ago and this man was left in the remains. If anyone ever talked to his boss like this priest did, he’d be “canned” in a heartbeat.

    Talk about arrogance!!!

  18. Christo et Ecclesiae says:

    It’s odd that it came down to something political… Perhaps this should have prompted earlier action:

    Saint Sabina Easter Sunday

    What a beautiful church it was…

  19. asperges says:

    Having watched some of the extraordinary videos on You Tube, I imagine he is not a devotee of Summorum Pontificum…

    How is any Catholic priest in any country allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour at all?

  20. JonM says:

    For decades he was never corrected.

    Just a year ago he received an award from the Cardinal himself! To think the ‘solution’ was to dump this deeply troubled priest on high school students really adds flavor to things. I anticipate a pseudo schism and years of legal wrangling over the parish property.

    The New Springtime drama continues!

  21. Warren says:

    There are so many things that have gone wrong which have led to the present situation: a priest drunk on his own success; successive metropolitans’ failure to properly supervise and guide their priest; and a flock, or significant portion thereof, blinded by the unholy charm of their priest and who have allowed themselves to become something other than Catholic.

    Evidently, there is a lack of proper catechesis and saintly virtue in the Archdiocese of Chicago. If the priest and flock feel themselves unfairly treated, they should do what faithful Catholics, i.e., the saints have always done: obey and pray. Obey Christ and His Church and pray for understanding, patience if necessary, and certainly the grace of God to love and serve Him and one’s neighbours.

  22. jflare says:

    I probably should feel some sadness about this–maybe something I should pray over–but I don’t feel much more than relief. Seems to me this situation needed to be addressed long before now.

    So why send him to a Catholic high school? I wonder if perhaps Card George has acted more smartly than some realize?
    There’s a hint in the article that personnel at Leo High School aren’t ecstatic about Fr Pfleger’s proposed assignment there. Perhaps the faculty, student body, and parents of students at Leo High expect a rather vigorous Catholic identity that doesn’t play loosely with the faith in the manner Fr Pfleger seems to prefer. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t wish to go there.
    In effect, given Fr Pfleger’s notoriety with the local (and national) media, perhaps Card George chose this route as a means to help the man to publicly fall on his own sword.
    This way, Fr Pfleger, by his own actions, publicly violates the rules he’s technically agreed to live by, thereby eliminating much chance for him to gain much creedence with anyone who has sense.

    I don’t know if Card George could be that calculating or if he intended this, but it seems plausible as a means to not quite publicly force a man to either repent of his arrogance or become a pariah by his own choosing. Stupidity and arrogance can catch up with people in the weirdest ways….

  23. I have never, ever seen a Catholic church described as a “Word-based, Bible teaching church”. I certainly hope they teach the Gospel, but generally that sort of description is used to affirm how sola scriptura the church is, so I don’t know what it means in a Catholic context.

  24. thickmick says:

    Pray for his reversion. What a jerk (sorry Lord).

  25. Glen M says:

    I’m disappointed this inevitable action took so long. The videos I’ve seen of his ablibbing the Canon are several years old and must be known by Cardinal George. The sermon is suppose to be a guide in understanding the day’s Gospel or other catechesis, not an opportunity for flamboyant political speeches. The Cardinal is most likely right when he said Pfleger has already left the Church. Sadly, he’s taken many people with him and many more have yet to meet Her.

    Pray for our priests and bishops.

  26. Kerry says:

    “I’ll have to look outside… I believe my calling…. I believe my calling… I believe my calling…I’m going to continue…”

    “I tell you I do not know the man!” “I know not this man of whom you speak.”

  27. frspecht says:

    Although Fr. referred to the position at the High School as “principleship,” the actual position was “president.” We have a similar position in my diocese in some high schools. It is a fund raising, public relations position and doesn’t have direct interaction with students or curriculum. I imagine this is the case in Chicago. I also imagine that Fr. Pfleger might be rather good at it.

  28. Mary Ann says:

    Check out the St. Sabina web pages…

    Their home page is here:

    Very sad. Is this really a Catholic church?

  29. I hope every Catholic Church is “Word-based, Bible teaching church”, and as someone from the South, have had many people ask if my Church was “Word-based”. I can understand having that on your website if your Catholic Church is in a predominantly Baptist-Methodist-Pentecostal environment – as is Santa Sabina.

    I am more worried by the large number of non-Catholics who are invited to speak at the Church, including during Sunday Mass. These include some who are ex-Catholics.

    But let’s not say things like “don’t let the door…” First of all, that means “enjoy Hell”, since that is what happens to people who leave the Church. We should pray, and pray hard, that he comes to his senses.

  30. benedetta says:

    He seems very charismatic, from the videos. He could be a great witness for prolife. He could assist in President Obama’s interest in dialogue with prolife. Maybe though he would reconsider the high school assignment as young people really need to see vocations in action in their lives and I agree that a fundraising sort of position might be a good fit given his skills. Many priests are involved in that work and it is needed. Re-assignment is a fact of life for diocesan priests, always has been, and with the needs as great as they are now it is pretty standard. It sounds like he has had a good long run and it cannot be said that he was not totally permitted to give voice to his take on the political scene.

  31. sulldjjr says:

    Yet another example of someone who sees the world first through the lens of his politics rather than his faith. This disease inflicts both those on the left and right, leading otherwise faithful people to support positions on issues such as abortion and state-mandated health care on the one hand, and the death penalty and incessant invasion/warfare on the other, in direct contradiction of long-standing, clearly articulated church teachings and doctrine. This is a very common error among Catholics, and one reason why we ought to stop using political terms like “conservative” or “liberal” to describe a doctrinal perspective. When it comes to the Church, we are all some degree of orthodox, with the more dissentious among us (see Mr. Pfleger) inclining toward heterodoxy or even apostasy. The term “conservative Catholic” is a straw man used by leftists to dismiss the orthodox teaching of the Faith. The orthodox among us ought to strenuously resist the use of that term.

  32. jarhead462 says:

    JohnMa-I was thinking along the same lines. I wonder if His Eminence used the High School assignment as a ruse to force Fr. Pfleger’s hand? At this point I am glad that action has finally been taken. I must admit that I must look deep within myself to find the will to pray for Fr. Pfleger. I cannot stand his brand of whacko, lefty activist garbage. He has been poisoning the minds of his flock for far too long. and now their souls are in danger.
    He is an insult to faithful Priests everywhere.
    Thus endith my “spittle-flecked nutty”

    Semper Fi!

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    The word “Catholic” appears exactly twice on the church home page, once in “Catholic Charities”. ALL seven of the guest speakers for the “Seven Last Words of Christ” are Baptist except one non-denominational and the execrable Rev. Wright.
    I understand 1st Corinthians 9 tells us to meet people where they are, but at some point you have gone so far into “outreach” that you can’t find your way back.
    I do feel very sorry for Fr. Pfleger because he has been doing this for years and years and never received anything much in the way of correction or guidance. He thought he was invulnerable and could do what he liked, and his congregation has backed him up in that 100 percent. Then suddenly the rules changed on him. The recent warnings he received were ignored because he was in too deep to change. That has got to be pretty rough.

  34. Very forthright on the Cardinal’s part. He comes right to the point and minces no words, yet is still not harsh in the least.

    The essence of it calls to mine a line form a John Wayne movie:
    “You decided alone. Now live it alone.”

  35. Charivari Rob says:

    I, too, am curious as to why the Cardinal would send him to a school.

    I suppose it could be that the Cardinal knew he would refuse and thus give cover for sterner measures. Either that, or maybe the position with the school was set up as some sort of toothless sinecure where Father can’t cause much trouble.

    What is a “president” of a Catholic High School, anyway? I’ve heard of Principals, Vice-Principals, Directors, Headmasters, and Deans – but never a “President”

  36. Dennis Martin says:

    I could be wrong, but I do not believe St. Sabina’s was his first parish.

    For those asking, “how could he have been permitted to remain there so long, given that he turned the parish into a mixture of Protestant and Catholic stuff” (the liturgy makes no attempt to say the black and do the red–Pfleger had developed a liturgy far more different from the prescribed Catholic liturgy as Martin Luther’s revised liturgy was), let me say that he developed his fiefdom at St. Sabina’s under Cardinal Bernardin’s inattention. Once developed, this fiefdom gave Fr. Pfleger a threat to hold over the head of anyone who crossed him: leave me alone to do as I please or I’ll sic my devoted followers on you.

    One can debate at what point this threat needed to be faced and battled. (It should not be described as a bluff and Cardinal George has not “called his bluff” now. The threat was real, not bluffing and the followers, as one can see from comments in the Chicago newspapers, are making good on it already.) His Eminence knew as well as any of the armchair Catholic cardinal-George-bashers that the threat would some day have to be confronted directly. The virtue of discretio (as set forth in Gregory I’s Pastoral Rule) has to be respected here. And armchair Church-generals are not sitting in the bishop’s chair, so they need to respect his judgment and discernment about when was the right time to confront the threat. His Eminence, not the pea-shooting armchair generals, is the one who will bear the brunt of the followers’ making good on the threat.

    For all the armchair generals out there, please note that Cardinal George waited until Pfleger said things publically that made the ecclesial (not political) issues starkly clear. Perhaps much earlier he could have found similar statements and based the defense of his action on them.

    But the decision about how and when to act was his to make and his to bear responsibility for.

    I hope now that all those who have been tearing him to shreds for not acting will, if not apologize, at least double down in their prayers for him. He has fought the fight for the faith as he has discerned best. Soldiers may grouse about decisions of their commanders and sometimes commadners do make mistakes. But for all the grousing, soldiers need to retain a fundamental level of trust in their commanders or else the whole army falls apart. When the grousing and sniping becomes public and demoralizing, it’s counterproductive to the grousers’ own goals, no matter how well-intentioned the sniping may have been.

    It’s time to close ranks around our bishops. and pray for them. The Blessed (if I may anticiupate) John Paul II cadre of bishops is coming into its own. We’ve developed bad habits, because of genuine malfeasance by the earlier generation of bishops, in our attitudes toward bishops. That needs to be reformed.

    Our bishops need support and prayer above all because the earlier malfeasance had the effect of destroying the perceived authority of the bishop–just read the comments in the Sun-Times and Tribune. Perhaps a third support the cardinal, another third lambaste him and more often than not allude to episcopal malfeeasance in retaining and reassigning priest-abusers.

    I’m sure our bishops are quite aware of how much they now act within a radically attenuated perception of their authority to act. In Church law, nothing has changed. But in perception among both Catholics and non-Catholics, they have very little or no authority left. In those circumstances they now have to try to take a stand, have backbone, act as true Rectors for Christ.

    It’s a terrible situation, created by the malfeasance of earlier bishops. The present bishops need our prayers and not our sniping.

  37. jarhead462 says:

    Ok, just another thought- I am not impressed by his “charisma” it is clearly an act, and a poor one at that. If I were black,(I believe “African -American” is derogatory) and he came to my chuch to perform his “look at me” routine, I would be insulted because I would think he is having a joke at my expense.

    Semper Fi!

  38. SimonDodd says:

    I agree with teaguytom and JonM. This problem is mitigated significantly by moving priests around periodically, and exacerbated when bishops refuse to confront it. I wish their excellencies and eminences would realize that a problem ignored doesn’t go away, it festers and metastasizes, and it’ll be all the more difficult and painful when, eventually, someone has to deal with it. Kudos to Card. George for dealing with this problem now, but his failure to address it sooner has probably increased the chances of a bad outcome. If it is true that this problem has been apparent for years, why has his eminence allowed it to continue for fourteen years?

    Presumably Fr. Pfleger can leave and take many of his congregation with him–but the operative word is “leave,” right? They have to leave. They have to surrender the parish’s real and personal property, the building and all their infrastructure, to the archdiocese, correct?

  39. Dennis Martin says:

    St. Sabina’s may have been Fr. Pflger’s first pastorate. But I do think he was at least an associate somewhere else before St. Sabina’s. Someone who actually knows this can supply the actual details.

  40. Dennis Martin says:

    To AnAmericanMother,

    I am quite sure that Fr. Pfleger received a lot of admonishment and correction over the years. Mostly privately, some publicly. It’s not really fair to say he received no correction. Perhaps he did not receive the correct correction at the correct time in the correct way from his bishops, fellow priests, lay people (I am aware of some correction from all three categories). But we ought to focus more on the fact that he ignored and rejected correction. It’s a reversal of the dynamic of a spouse, in a quarrel, who says, “You’re not listening to me” and means, “You are not agreeing with what I say.” The other spouse may very well be listening but not persuaded. To explain the failure to be persuaded as “not listening” won’t help the spouses learn to communicate better.

    To focus on “didn’t receive correction” instead of on “didn’t listen to correction” unfairly puts all the blame on the superiors and exonerates the one who had an obligation to listen to correction frmo superiors. Traditionalist Catholics sometimes let a kind of clericalism mislead them–upset about abuses and about defiance of dissenters, they seem to think, “if only the bishop had corrected better, all would be well.” True, bishops may have failed to correct, but the responsibility of the dissenter to listen and follow correction needs to be considered. A clericalist mentality assumes that, if the pope or the bishop or Father Pastor would only put his foot down, all would be well. Some things might be well, others might continue to be unwell because two free-wills are involved in all such cases.

  41. Gail F says:

    This is very sad. Someone who appears to be a raging egomaniac and who probably — I don’t see why I should think otherwise — believes that he is right in what he does has been allowed to become that way. Why wouldn’t he be upset at being told otherwise, after 30 years of believing that he is doing a fantastic job? What does anyone expect from the man? If he is able to wrench himself to obey his bishop, which is often difficult for very faithful priests to do when they are assigned to something they don’t want to do, it will show incredible strength of character and faith. I hope that he is capable of it.

    As far as how he is being asked to do so, it reminds me of a book called “Discipline without Punishment” that is frequently recommended in our industry. You tell the employee what you expect him/her to do in the future, without blaming him/her for anything done so far, and send the employee home to decide whether or not he or she wants to do it. If so, the employee is expected to come back and commit to the job. If not, the employee is expected to quit.

  42. SCCatholic says:

    I pray Cardinal George sends St. Sabina a faithful priest. Their previous pastor, Bob McClory, appeared on MyFoxChicago supporting Fr. Pfleger:

    McClory left the priesthood to marry the sister who was parish principal at the time.

  43. Gail F says:

    And while this does show what can happen (badly) when priests are allowed to stay in one place, let’s not forget that moving them around all the time isn’t so great either. Constant disruption for them and for every parish? Not without many and serious problems.

  44. JamesA says:

    Forgive me if I duplicate someone else’s remarks.
    I have been checking out the St. Sabina website now for the last few weeks, and what I have found there is absolutely appalling :
    The word “Catholic” can be found only with an extensive search.
    The word “Mass” cannot be found at all, at least not by me.
    If you look at his homily webcasts, make sure you have a bucket handy nearby. Liturgical abuse abounds, most egregiously in the total ad-libing of the Eucharistic Prayer except for the (barely) valid words of institution.
    The Cardinal hit the nail on the head. This guy (and this parish) has not been Catholic for a long time. God bless the Cardinal and protect him from the storm to come.

  45. I shudder at the thought of him in charge of a high school.

  46. wmeyer says:

    It is sad that suspension was necessary. Sad, too, that Fr. Pfleger has apparently been autonomous, unguided, and uncorrected, for so very long. Sadder still to see from the evidence of the parish website that they have only “worship service”, not Mass.

    This is clearly a parish in need of proper teaching. In need of proper leadership. I pray that Cardinal George will place there a very traditional, reliable, and strong priest to lead them back the Church.

  47. SimonDodd says:

    Dennis, respectfully, I disagree. Your comment would absolutely have been fair years ago, when the problems were much younger. But as time goes by, if nothing changes, private warnings must become public action. Imagine a football player who starts behaving badly on the field. At first, the team would presumably let it go, hoping it was just a phase. After a while, his teammates would say something to him privately. Eventually, if it still continued, management would have to wade in. As time rolled on, the player would “receive[] a lot of admonishment and correction” from his managers, fellow players, and supporters. Now suppose that this continues for years; no matter what is happening behind the scenes, he’s still acting the same way on the field. Would you really say that “[t]o focus on ‘didn’t receive correction’ instead of on ‘didn’t listen to correction’ unfairly puts all the blame on the superiors and exonerates the [player] who had an obligation to listen to correction from superiors”? I don’t think so. At some point, management must act. At some point it ceases to be valid to say “listen, he’s supposed to be following, and while I didn’t do anything about it, I told him what I wanted. He just didn’t obey. It’s his fault.” At some point, without exonerating the person involved in any way, the situation becomes the fault of the superiors for not stepping in and acting.

    If the abuse scandal—not to mention liturgical abuse—teaches anything, it is that episcopal lethargy is dangerous. Their excellencies and eminences can’t just ignore problems and hope they will go away; they can’t just express their view or lead by example and hope that the dissenters will follow. They are commissioned to shepherd their flocks, not to watch as the wolves roam freely.

  48. irishgirl says:

    About time, Your Eminence!
    This should have been done a long time ago!
    I hope Pfleger doesn’t go to the high school-I shudder to think, the sake of the souls of the students!
    He ought to go to a Carthusian monastery and perform severe penance!

  49. dirtycopper says:

    This blister should have been popped long ago instead of being allowed to fester. Associate minister? Really?? Interesting that irishgirl mentioned the Carthusians. Clearly the polar opposite of what is going on at Saint Sabina.

  50. Re: question above — I believe the “president” of a Catholic high school is usually the chief fundraiser and gladhander for a school (and often, its athletic program). I believe I’m right in saying that our old pastor, on his retirement from our parish, was made “president” of a nearby Catholic high school. (He also filled in for other priests, was made temporary pastor of a parish in transition, and did other odd jobs for the archbishop.) He seems to enjoy it, and he knows everybody so he’s got the contacts to get it done. It’s not a pretend job; but it’s not a job that would be a teaching job.

    Given how many liberal people in Chicago like Fr. Pfleger, and given (if true) that Leo HS is somewhat conservative, it sounds like Cardinal George thought Fr. Pfleger could widen the school’s fundraising support. It would also have given him a lot of leeway on how to spend his time, and not ripped him away from his old parish totally; he would have been in a position to help the new pastor.

  51. Teresa-1962 says:

    Fr. Z,

    I was reading about this incident over at Thomas Peters website and he refers to Fr. P’s “vows.” What is the difference between a diocesan priest making a “promise” and a religious order priest taking a “vow?” Is it just a matter of semantics or is there some significance under cannon law? Anyone?

  52. Dennis Martin says:

    SimonDodd, I respectfully disagree with your respectful disagreement. Cardinal George did publicly correct Fr. Pfleger. He even temporarily suspended him.

    The problem happened decades ago when bishops failed to discipline at a time when it would have been taken seriously by offenders. As you may recall, I spoke of bishops’ malfeasance. I’m talking 1970s and 1980s. There was malfeasance. I thought I wrote fairly clearly, but let me try again: because of the malfeasance of those bishops, bishops today have little effective authority though they have plenty of authority “on the books.” By the ancient principles of discretio, a bishop today has to take that into account. He can issue corrections, publicly or privately, he can excommunicate, he can do all sorts of things. But because of the malfeasance during the 1970s and 1980s, some disciplinary actions that might have been effective in 1960 could actually have negative effects today.

    That does not mean bishops should not discipline today. It only means that readers of this blog need to get it through their heads that the assumptions of the 1960s that many of them operate with (“if only Bishop X would come down hard on dissenter Y all would be well”) no longer apply.

    This does not mean I think criticism of bishops is out of place, though this is the stock response I get from my traditionalist friends. They don’t want to engage the very real and, I think, careful distinctions I am making. It’s easier to portray my cautions as “you don’t want us to criticize bishops at all.”

    I’m just saying two things: (1). It’s the bishop who has to face God and account for his actions. We who have to account for our own actions, not the bishop’s, should pipe down and cut out the armchair quarterbacking. It’s a proximate occasion of sin, in my view.

    (2). The principle of leadership is discretio, discernment, as set forth by Gregory I in the Pastoral Rule. If you have read this, please do. Discretio means that there are no blanket, one-size-fits-all solutions for problems faced by a leader, especially a bishop. He has to answer to God for having dealt with each individual situation after considering all possible factors. A proper course of action for one person in one situation may be the exact opposite of a proper and righteous course of action in another case. This too leads me to say we need to pipe down and pray.

  53. Melody says:

    Wow, definitely a cult of personality going on there. The official website has a page asking people to protest for his reinstatement and get this, a photo page JUST for pictures of Father Pfleger:
    It’s downright creepy! I thought his reaction to being reassigned was a bit egotistical, but this guy acts like he’s pope of his own little church.

  54. MissOH says:

    I heard from someone who was just at the gathering or rally of the St. Sabina parishioners in Chicago. I believe it was either at the archdiocesan offices or the Cardinal’s residence. It will get much play as the big bad church and authority against the oppressed voices of freedom. Sad that they won’t discuss the disobedience though I can see this being St. Theresa’s in DC and Stallings 2011 style.

  55. tealady24 says:

    I hear Broadway has an opening for a showman such as he. You know, something like that Spiderman nonsense. This is EXACTLY what we do not want or need in our Church!

  56. Jayna says:

    I wish this had come out before Palm Sunday. I’d have high-fived Card. George immediately after kissing his ring.

    Fr. Pfleger recently did a talk at Loyola (where I’m a grad student) and there was quite the excitement in the Theology Dept. (in which I am a said grad student). A couple of weeks later, we had a talk from the Holy See’s Permanent Observer in the UN on papal diplomacy. ‘Tis an odd school.

  57. Eric says:

    na na na nah, na na na nah, hey hey hey ……….

  58. QMJ says:

    I shudder to think what this lunatic would have done to the minds of the students at that school. Thank goodness he isn’t there.

  59. Norah says:

    Pray for the priests who will replace Pfleger and, hopefully, attempt to return the parish to the Catholic Church.

  60. Here is the actual 2-page letter by Cardinal George on the Archdiocese of Chicago website.

  61. DT says:

    @Teresa-1962 –

    There is a significant difference between a consecrated religious’ vows and a diocesan priest’s promises of obedience to his bishop and the bishop’s successors.

    Allow me to provide an extended citation from Venerable John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the consecrated life (Vita Consecrata, 1996). The opening section of the exhortation provides a good summary as to the significance of the vows for both the religious and the Church.

    “1. The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one — are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven.

    In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an “undivided” heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society. (VC, 1)”

    And a briefer citation from the same document.

    “In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it “manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling”and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse (VC, 3).”

    The Code of Canon Law has a brief description of the elements of the consecrated life in Can. 573. I have provided the quotation in full below for your reference.

    “§1. The life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to His honor, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory.”

    §2. The Christian faithful freely assume this form of living in institutes of consecrated life canonically erected by competent authority of the Church. Through vows or other sacred bonds according to the proper laws of the institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience and, through the charity to which the counsels lead, are joined in a special way to the Church and its mystery.”

    I hope this helps!

  62. Stephen says:

    As a counterpoint it might be worth noting the beautiful testimony of Father Joseph Billotti S.J. who says he finds Jesus every day through his vows, especially obedience.

  63. iowapapist says:

    This development is a good thing and long overdue. The situation is not unlike that of the Rev. George Stallings of Washington DC back in the 90’s. Stallings (a black man) made a mockery of the Church by claiming it to be a racist institution. This was big news until he was suspended and excommunicated. The media followed Stallings and his new congregation for a short time and then he went into oblivion. A priest who is disobedient to Holy Mother Church is big news. Once the priest has been formally separated from the Church, he becomes (merely) another self-promoting “evangelist”. Once the boil has been lanced (and I refer to the situation, not the dissident priests themselves), the healing can begin. Although it is sad that these narcissists take a small amount of souls with them, their departure is for the greater good of the Church.

  64. Mother says:

    Well said, iowapapist.

Comments are closed.