Father Pfleger And The Catholic Priesthood

Over the last week, ever since The Chicago Tribune broke the news that the infamous pastor of St. Sabina’s in Chicago, Father Michael Pfleger, would be restored as pastor of that church, my e-mail has been flooded with messages from people who are terribly distressed. It is particularly heart-wrenching for those who live in the Archdiocese of Chicago and have, as faithful Catholics, witnessed the ongoing scandals perpetrated by Pfleger over the last 30 years.

As Jon wrote,

The message this news report sends is that it’s not years of supporting pro-abortion politicians that will get a priest in hot water; it’s naming politicians by name and risking the Church’s tax exempt status with the IRS.

And then there was Henry who sent me a copy of letter he mailed to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s executive office.  In the letter Henry states,

What is most troubling is the fact that Father Pfleger openly endorsed [a specific politician] and by doing so endorsed [his] horrible record of supporting infanticide. Father Pfleger was not officially criticized by Cardinal George for his open support of a politician who supports abortion. … Cardinal George is setting a bad example by allowing Father Pfleger to spread his errors. The fact that Father Pfleger wanted it to be known publicly that he disagreed with Cardinal George's decision to suspend him further shows his lack of respect for the hierarchy of the Church. I am sure Father Pfleger knew that his ‘leadership team’ would protest his suspension. And, just as suspected, Cardinal George gave in. I urge Cardinal George again to reconsider his decision and seek the advice of Pope Benedict XVI regarding Father Pfleger.

Finally, I heard from Rita who anguished,

My question is: Isn't there anyone above Cardinal George who could excommunicate Father Pfleger?  He has no business to be called a priest. I know we have a shortage of priests, but we don't need one who teaches heresy.

I could go on, but I think the point has been made. The mixed message from Chicago that has reached more than a few faithful Catholics is not good for the Church. It is a picnic for the media and it is certainly not making a contribution toward the hope of the salvation of Pfleger’s soul and the souls of those he has been misleading for a very long time.

But you need not take my word for it nor for that matter accept a word I have written – you can study the teachings of the Catholic Church yourself, compare them with the manner in Pfleger has behaved as a Catholic priest and arrive at your own conclusions.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this about the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which a mortal man is elevated to the priesthood of the Catholic Church:

1581 This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.

Imagine the power of that grace which is bestowed on each man at ordination and imagine the sorrowful heart of Christ when one of His priests rejects that great grace. I know that by making such a statement some of you will send me messages telling me that I have no right to judge the heart of Father Michael Pflager, but I am not judging him but am instead examining his public record.

A Catholic priest who supports pro-abortion public figures and uses his pulpit to foster his politically motivated agenda has rejected that grace; the obviousness of it is there for all to see if they choose to be honest about it.

And in all fairness I must also point out the following from the Catechism:

1584 Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully:

As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. … The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.77

For that alone we praise God as we pray for this priest and the souls affected by his heretical actions. 

Oh, oh! There I go again with another one of those inflammatory words. But let’s take a moment and examine what heresy is, shall we? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

2089 … Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same…

The definition of heresy does not merely change depending on the thoughts of the one perceiving it; heresy is clearly defined by the Catechism. Since Catholic teaching in matters of faith and morals is unchanging, you can see the problem with the actions and the words of Father Pfleger.

The solution to all this is prayer. I can assure you this of this for many reasons, but the most prominent in my mind now is one of the dearest Catholic priests I ever had the good fortune know. His name was Father John Hardon, S..J.

Father Hardon knew what it meant to be a faithful priest. His entire life was a reflection of his deep and abiding faith. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his own ordination he said,

In the name of God, I beg you, with all my being, to pray. Pray every day to our Lord. Pray for priests. Pray that priests may be priests not only in name, but in reality. What is a real priest? A real priest is one who loves Jesus crucified. A real priest is one who loves nothing more – and I mean every syllable – who loves nothing more than to suffer out of love for Jesus, who ordained him. A real priest is a living martyr. Pray for priests.

For those of us who have remained faithful to the Christ who ordained us, pray for the priests who are struggling – struggling, hear it, especially with temptations against the faith, and temptations against chastity. Pray that we priests remain faithful believers, and thus be channels of the grace of faith to those who depend on our priestly ministry. Pray that we may preserve our chastity, even though it might mean martyrdom. From my first Mass, at every consecration, I have asked our Lord for the grace of martyrdom. Pray that we priests, if it is God's grace, die a martyr's death, that we might live, all of us, a martyr's life.