Father Michael Pfleger Removed as Pastor Following Racially Insensitive Speech

Chicago Francis Cardinal George has temporarily removed Father Michael Pfleger from his position as pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church on Chicago’s South Side. The decision follows his racially insensitive remarks at Sen. Barack Obama’s former church.

As discussed earlier, Father Pfleger made an apology about his remarks after the controversial tape was made public. The problem, however, is not simply the racially insensitive character but also the obvious endorsement of a candidate in the remarks. As a non-for-profit, the church is not allowed to support a political candidate — a rule that seems in the past honored only in the breach by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, click here.

The decision of Cardinal George, therefore, is not surprising or unjustified.

However, the rebuke was pretty light. George simply stated “I have asked Father Michael Pfleger, Pastor of St. Sabina’s Parish, to step back from his obligations there, and take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties, effective today. . . . Fr. Pfleger does not believe this to be the right step at this time. While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests.”

The use of the church to support a candidate is a very serious business. This comes on the heels of an outrageous decision of another priest to deny communion to conservative law professor Doug Kmiec due to his endorsement of Obama. Click here.

“Fr. Pfleger does not believe this to be the right step at this time,” the Cardinal’s statement continued. “While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests.”

For the full story, click here.

14 thoughts on “Father Michael Pfleger Removed as Pastor Following Racially Insensitive Speech”

  1. “Refusing to see what is there,”…It sounds very similar to “denial,” a concept many in the church have mastered quite well-see sexual abuse scandal for details.

  2. 4wrdthnkndad:

    Antone who thinks that the RCC is not up to its neck in political endorsement and manipulation from LA to NYC doesn’t have a history book, or refuses to see what is there.

  3. It appears to me the Catholic Church has been supporting political candidates in the city of Chicago for some time. Perhaps in more subtle ways than Fr. Pfleger, but it does not strike me as a new issue. It appears to me that Fr. Pfleger is targeted because he does not fit within the constraints of what our society deems as familiar and comfortable.

    He is a white priest, who preaches like a black minister, to a pre-dominantly black community. He uses social justice practices to benefit his community. He draws attention to the media to ultimately pressure tobacco and alcohol corporations. He is loud, controversial, and oppinionated. And if he wasn’t, he’d have the 400 parishnors he had when he took over St. Sabina and not the 2400 members.

    This is absolutely not about using the church for political purposes. I suspect the late Cardinal Cody assisted the late Mayor Daley get elected, if nothing else by permitting his ushers to proudly display “Vote for Daley” buttons on their lapels as they collected money from pew after pew.

  4. rafflaw,

    I think free speech has significantly eroded since cheney/bush. On this day the military commission “trials” are making free speech and the right to meaningful self defense null and void. I’ve known/heard many people say they were often afraid to speak up in this climate.

    You make a good point with private employers as well. How far may private entities (subdevelopments etc.) go in restricting constitutional rights? With so many security/war/government functions being privitized for the profit and power of the few, this further erodes all our rights in so many ways, speech being one of them.


  5. Jill,
    You are probably right that we sometimes find friends and allies when we least expect it. It just seems that Free Speech has been eroded in the last 7 years at an alarming rate. Puzzling, I agree that if I am using my Freedom of Speech to take a shot at my employer, that I could lose my job if I am an at will employee. But when I am not taking a shot at the employer but they do not like what I am saying, then the issue gets foggier.

  6. Rafflaw,

    I understand what you mean but I still think it’s always worth keeping an open heart. Sometimes each of us does not see important things until long after it was clear to many others. Please don’t take this to mean people have to forgive others. I don’t buy that for a second. But allies can and do exist in places we may not think to look at first. At least this has been my consistent experience.


  7. Rafflaw,

    I agree that priests or ministers would still have to answer to their organizations, but what’s wrong with that? If they don’t like it, they should choose another religion, or perhaps walk away from religion altogether if they reject the construct.

    I can’t just say anything I want on behalf of my private employer without getting terminated. Are my speech rights being infringed? The government does protect my right to say it (I shouldn’t be charged for a crime for it, unless perhaps it is slander), but that doesn’t extend to requiring my employer to tolerate anything I say on their behalf and remain employed.

  8. Puzzling,
    I am in favor of removing the tax free status, but I don’t think it will help priests or ministers because they have to answer to a bishop or a cardinal, no matter what the tax status is.

  9. Jill,
    You may be right, but how long does it take before they get religion and start listening to their conscience?

  10. As a non-for-profit, the church is not allowed to support a political candidate…

    How about removing not-for-profit status from religious organizations?

    No more pressure to stay out of political endorsements.

    These organizations could then allow (or disallow) any speech they wanted among their members based on their own interpretation of how religious discourse should interact with the debate.

  11. Double amen! I thought the same thing.

    I have been fascinated to see the changes of heart/mind in some very conservative individuals such as Doug Kmiec. I heard him speak in person about 2 years ago (many times on NPR). I thought he was one of the most arrogant, unthinking (though brilliant) individuals I had ever heard. Over the years it seemed there was nothing the cheney-bush administration would do that he couldn’t justify. Then the US attorney firings happened and something happened to Mr. Kmiec. He did not think this was just fine. He really seemed to start questioning things about the administration.

    Similarly, David Iglesias, who considered himself right wing, has come to the conclusion that all is not well in the administration. I’ll add to that list, Scott McClellan.

    Mespo, these are the kind of people I was talking about when I said you just don’t know where you may find friends or enemies based on whether someone is liberal or conservative. People with a conscience come from the strangest places!

  12. I don’t mind that Cardinal George took this action, except it may prevent other priests from speaking their minds on non-political matters. I just wish Cardinal George and prior holders of his office had moved this quickly when they received information concerning the abuse of school children by parish priests.

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