Thursday, April 28, 2011

I told you not to let the door hit you on the way out ....

Ignore the Cardinal's resemblance to Dr. Evil.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Fr. Michael Pfleger, the controversial pastor of St. Sabina Parish in Chicago, has been suspended.

On March 11, Cdl. Francis George (left) asked Fr. Pfleger (right) to take over as principal of Leo High School. A week later, the pastor, who has characterized his own ministry as "progressive" ("I believe my calling is to be a voice for justice"), sent a reply letter; according to a spokesperson for St. Sabina, the letter said that Fr. Pfleger "was neither qualified nor experienced being president of a high school, but that he was willing to help Leo High School in any way that he could."

"As you know," Cdl. George wrote, "this was an honest offer, not driven by pressure by any group but by a pastoral need in the Archdiocese. You promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it."

Your written response to me after our preliminary conversation left open some possibility of your serving at Leo, and I continued discussions with those who are involved in priest transfers in the Archdiocese .... Even as these conversations began or were being planned, our private conversation was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to 'remove' you from St. Sabina's. You know that priests in the Archdiocese are 'removed' only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor child or are guilty of financial malfeasance. In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another according to policies in place for the last forty years.
 If you'll remember, Fr. Pfleger also said on the radio, “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.” Cdl. George thundered, "If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish." Fr. Pfleger's suspension—no deadline or limit is mentioned—is to be spent praying over his priestly commitments "in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church."

Okay, so I've had my after-dinner slice of Schadenfreude. Now all I feel is sad. It didn't need to come to this. 

Secular (diocesan) priests know at their ordination that they're bound to celibacy and obedience by canon law (CIC 273, 274.2), and that they can lose ecclesial office by publicly defecting from the faith or the communion of the Church (CIC 194 §1.2). Was Fr. Pfleger counting on the priest shortage to give him leverage over the archdiocese? Did he miss the changing mood of the Church in America and its bishops, the declining tolerance for priests who make up their own rules as they go along?

Cardinal George has now effectively told Fr. Pfleger that if he stays it won't be on his own terms. Let's see if he has the humility to back down and accept defeat gracefully.

Update
Drat. For once, I thought I'd be the first to comment on this story. But no-ooo-oo! Father Z beat me to it, as did Lisa Graas and Tito Edwards! Here's the story from Radio 91.5 WBEZ. And Fr. Z links to a YouTube collection of Fr. Pfleger's rants, like this: