US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Chicago news: Father Michael Pfleger suspended

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

This has been brewing for some time, but it seems things have finally boiled over. Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Parish on Chicago's South Side, has been suspended by Cardinal Francis George. George has been for several years suggesting that Pfleger move from the primarily African American parish he has served for more than two decades; Pfleger and the parish have resisted, largely due to the success the community has had under Pfleger's leadership. (Pfleger was last suspended after publicly making fun of HIllary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.)

What is unfortunate is that this situation is likely to do great harm to St. Sabina and to the African American Catholic community in Chicago. George's public letter calls Pfleger out for the pastor's public threat to leave the church if he was removed from St. Sabina--certainly unwise on his part:

"Father Pfleger, I deeply regret that your public remarks have brought you to a moment of crisis that I pray will quickly pass. This conflict is no between you and me; it’s between you and the Church that ordained you as 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. To avoid misrepresentation and manipulation on anyone’s part, this letter will be released to the parish, which is to publish it in its entirety, and to the media after it has been delivered to you."

If you are a Chicago Catholic, you want this resolved quickly, because you can be sure it will be all over the front pages tomorrow. It is truly a pastoral tragedy, and depending on Pfleger's next step, it could be ugly. George's statement amounts to a public reprimand--even shaming--of a priest who has made incredible contributions to the people of God. Here's hoping for a quick reconciliation.