Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Father Pfleger willing to leave Church rather than resign pastorate

The embattled pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church told radio show hosts Tavis Smiley and Cornel West this weekend that he would look outside the Catholic Church if offered no other choice but to work at a Catholic high school.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger also said 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 for his most recent clash with Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George.

“I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church,” Pfleger said. “If they say ‘You either take this principalship of [Leo High School] or pastorship there or leave,’ then I’ll have to look outside the church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. 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.”

In an 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 going to Leo full-time would not happen, Pfleger said.

“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.”

Pfleger told the Tribune that he feels called to minister the way he did at St. Sabina on Sunday after a number of shootings across the city.

Instead of preaching a sermon, Pfleger led 150 men to confront gang members at the corner of 79th Street and Ashland Avenue.

“That’s what I know I’m called to do,” he said. “I know I’m called to create a church full of leaders and to build a community where children feel safe … Whatever I have to do has to be done in the context of church. I’m not interested in being a community organizer or being an activist. I come out of Dr. King’s philosophy. Real transformation of individuals and the world has to be rooted in the context of faith.”

On the radio, Pfleger said conservative Catholics want to return St. Sabina to the way it was before he got there and silence what they believe to be progressive messages coming from the pulpit.

“Here it is an African-American church and community that has a voice in Chicago and that is recognized in Chicago as a voice for justice. I think that’s part of the problem,” he said.

For the past couple years, he said he has been the target of petitions and letter-writing campaigns by the National Rifle Association. 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.”

Through a spokeswoman, George said he has never received a letter from the NRA or spoken to anyone from the organization about Pfleger. However, he does hear all kinds of opinions from parishioners, spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said.

When West questioned the NRA’s influence on the church, Pfleger said: “Well, they have that kind of impact in the White House. I guess they have that kind of impact in the church house.”


  1. Pfleger is an embarrassment .

  2. "...then I’ll have to look outside the church." This is unbelievable! This does not seem like something from the Holy Spirit...

  3. He creates confusion. His apparent level of pride, seen from the outside, (meaning I'm not in possession of every detail), is frightening to me. Let him go. He can always repent and come back. That he would give up unity in the body is, again, confusing and downright strange. If I didn't believe in spiritual warfare before, well, I would after following Pfleger's story for the last 5 years or so.

  4. Did this priest miss that line that goes something like, "God doesn't call the equipped, but he equips the called"?? and just because he doesn't FEEL called or equipped (as if vocation and ability are the same thing), doesn't merit leaving the Church, which does have it's spiritual consequences...which wasn't even mentioned in the article. hm

  5. Obedience to a Bishop doesn't mean that you go on the radio talking about "your options." Cardinal George should've just reassigned him, effectively cutting him loose...I agree, let him, like the prodigal son, try things out away from the Church, and let him come to his senses and return home.

  6. He's not even in the Catholic church now! There's nothing Catholic about this man. He's nothing but a heretic.