Father Pfleger, The Catholic Priesthood And The Fearful Hierarchy

Recently I received the following message on a forum that I host for EWTN’s web site. Because I think that some things need not be repeated verbatim when certain political figures are named, I have modified the message slightly, but I am sure you will see where my friend and fellow Catholic is going with this.

I am a confused Catholic – please help

Dear Judie Brown, Jesus said: "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." I am very confused both spiritually and morally over this Fr. Pfleger issue. Confused as to why our Cardinal, Francis Cardinal George, has not removed this blatantly pro-abortion priest from the priesthood.

I am a life-long Chicagoan, a 50-year-old cradle Catholic and father of five children. During the last five or more years I have been focusing on evangelization and apologetics. I consider myself to be a devout and Orthodox Catholic. Of all the newspaper articles, web and TV and radio commentaries that I have seen, heard and read, no one has focused on the central issue of Catholic Theology, specifically, the fact that Catholicism teaches that abortion is one of the five non negotiable issues for Catholic voters. Abortion is an intrinsically evil action.

Now the fact that Fr. Pfleger, a Catholic priest, endorses a pro-abortion (including partial-birth abortion) candidate is a concern in itself. By endorsing a pro-abortion candidate Pfleger is de facto endorsing the intrinsically evil act of abortion, and any other evil in which a candidate may believe. In my opinion, Pfleger is not in communion with the Catholic Church!

Why has the Church hierarchy allowed this renegade priest to remain in his role as a priest in the Catholic faith?

What has happened to the standards of the Church?

What is God thinking about His Church and the leadership here in the Chicago area?

Why is the Church allowing this "Cafeteria Catholic Priest" to influence and confuse the flock??? Why hasn’t the Church hierarchy denounced and renounced Pfleger’s anti-Catholic beliefs?

It is not relevant to argue that Pfleger is allowed to stay in his position as pastor simply because his parishioners like him. What does matter is Pfleger’s unwillingness to conform to the teachings of the Catholic faith, some of which may not be popular in secular society but nonetheless are true. Fr Pfleger’s parishioners are being deceived and misled away from the true teachings of the Catholic faith by the mere fact that Pfleger is actively endorsing a Pro-Abortion candidate. …

Why is the Church NOT standing up for the truth by stating that NO Catholic is allowed to support any candidate for any political office who endorses abortion?? Is it any mystery why so many Catholics are tepid, cafeteria Catholics? Is it any wonder why so many are leaving the Catholic Church???

I am very interested in hearing responses to these questions from the Church hierarchy here in Chicago. As you know, they do not respond to individuals who ask these questions. But they probably would respond to these questions, most which I believe are of vital interest to most Catholics in general, if posed by the media. Would you please consider posting this letter within the near future while this issue remains front and center?

Personally, I am praying for Fr Pfleger to return to the full Catholic faith, and am also praying for everyone effected by his conduct to receive an illumination of conscience from the Holy Spirit. Sincerely, WJL Chicago”

Well, WJL, the Chicago Sun Times has answered this for us. Apparently Cardinal George asked Father Pfleger to stay out of presidential politics and the priest has agreed not to mention the names of politicians.

In part, the Chicago Sun Times report states,

"To avoid months of turmoil in the church, Father Pfleger has promised me that he will not enter into campaigning," George said in a statement. "[He] will not publicly mention any candidate by name and will abide by the discipline common to all Catholic priests.”

And then today, Cardinal George took the further step of "temporarily" removing Father Pfleger. In a statement, the cardinal said:

To put recent events in some perspective, 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. I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight and for rest and attention to family concerns.

I hope also that the life of St. Sabina’s parish may continue in uninterrupted fashion. Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian’s parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina’s and will assure the full complement of ministerial services during this period. I ask the members of St. Sabina’s parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers. They are in mine.

While all this is occurring the Chicago Sun-Times editorializes in a way that can only be described as applauding the priest as though he were nearly saintly!

Just two weeks ago, Pfleger visited with the editorial board of this newspaper to urge support for a package of anti-violence bills in Springfield. He talked convincingly about, among other matters, the need to stir good people in bad neighborhoods to stand up for themselves. On Sunday, this page ran an editorial extolling the anti-crime potential of plain old block clubs – an editorial born of that meeting with Pfleger.

Cardinal George has his hands full with Pfleger, a narcissist who gets carried away with his own rhetoric.

But if good works are the measure of a good priest, the cardinal couldn’t do much better than the blond hot dog on 79th Street.

So what we can deduce from this? Well, based on our past experience five years ago when Father Pfleger invited Al Sharpton to be the homilist in his parish during Sunday Mass, we can assume that the cardinal will do little to permanently remove this priest from his position of power and influence. He has slapped Father Pfleger’s hands and will, in my humble opinion, not cause a public disturbance about this renegade priest that will have long-lasting consequences. In fact I am betting that when the dust settles, business will continue as usual and the public will be left in the same boat as my friend, WJL, wondering what is going on with the Catholic hierarchy these days!

Why permanent steps aren’t being be taken by the cardinal is a mystery. If the cardinal had acted five years ago when Pfleger hosted pro-abortion Sharpton, this current flap would not have occurred. And so we are left wondering, along with WJL.

Why do Catholics leave the Church? Better yet, why do cardinals and bishops refrain from teaching, preaching and calling evil by its proper name?

If the second question did not have to be asked, the first question would have this response:

Nobody is leaving the Catholic Church; hordes of people are joining the Church because they are so inspired by her fearless leaders.

Fearless leadership, courage enough to teach the whole truth, and confidence in the Lord to protect the faithful against evil – those are qualities we desperately need to see reflected in the actions of every single member of the Catholic hierarchy. Until we do, such debacles will continue. May God help us!