Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fr. Michael Pfleger: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Not even two years ago, St. Sabina's fiery pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger, was ordered to take a leave of absence by Chicago Archbishop Francis Cardinal George. The censure followed a homily in which Fr. Pfleger made racially-charged remarks about Hillary Clinton's attitude towards her rival Barack Obama's lead in the polls. He was reinstated following protests from his parishioners and other supporters.

Now, Fr. Pfleger is back in hot water -- this time for supporting women's ordination. The priest had just been honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Racial Justice on April 7th at a ceremony presided over by Cardinal George. In remarks that reflect the relationship between this priest and his superior, Cardinal George said:

Fr. Pfleger has been a controversialist; and controversy is easier to report on than is love. Fr. Plfeger has spoken in anger, sometimes unjustly or uncharitably; and anger is easier to capture on the camera than is love. But Fr. Pfleger is a Catholic priest and a pastor, and in that capacity, like all good priests and pastors, he acts out of love. Ask his people. Ask the sick he has visited and the dying he has attended. Ask the troubled he has consoled. Ask the young people he has counseled and the school children he has supported. As part of his ministry for racial justice, Fr. Pfleger has addressed killing, for killing is not an act of love...

Then, in the context of a homily for Divine Mercy Sunday on the need to overcome fear, Fr. Pfleger related how Christ's disciples had deserted him when he was taken to be crucified. "They ran away when he most needed them. Only John at the foot of the Cross," he said. "And the women," he added and proclaimed to applause: "Hmm. That's why there should be woman priests. That's why there should be married priests. That's why there should be women bishops and women cardinals."

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Fr. Pfleger issued a sort of apology for his remarks:

“On Sunday, April 11, while preaching a sermon on the power of fear, I was referring to the fear that paralyzed the apostles, locking them in a room, leaving only John and the women at the foot of the cross. I stated that is why I believe women ought to be able to be ordained, as well as priests ought to be able to get married...While this is my personal opinion, I do respect and follow the Catholic Church teachings, and I am sorry I failed to do this.”

And the priest expressed his own opinion about the controversy:

“There’s four people murdered 10 minutes away from me in Marquette Park, there are shootings last night in the neighborhood where I live, and hundreds are killed in China, but people are more concerned with an opinion of a priest who said something for 15 seconds in a sermon...It’s discouraging to me that no one’s emailing me or calling me to say, ‘How can I help you save our children?’ . . . But they’re emailing me over an opinion voiced in 15 seconds."


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