Cardinal calls priest's remarks 'partisan'

Obama 'disappointed' by Pfleger comments
June 3, 2008 2:16:17 PM PDT
The flap over Fr. Michael Pfleger's political comments has drawn a response from Cardinal Francis George.The controversy began with a sermon last Sunday when Pfleger, a long-time supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, made disparaging remarks about Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Cardinal Francis George and priest Michael Pfleger, apparently, have met or communicated otherwise during the past 24 hours. The bottom line is Pfleger will remain pastor of his South Side parish, as long he does not engage in partisan politics as he did on tape earlier in the week.

The Reverend Pfleger, an unabashed Obama supporter, spoke last Sunday from the same pulpit used by Trinity's former Pastor Jeremiah Wright. Pfleger's sermon topic was politics. Specifically, he spoke about the tears shed by Hillary Clinton in February, hours before the New Hampshire primary.

"She wasn't the only one crying. There were a whole lot of white people crying," Pfelger told the congregation.

After the video aired on YouTube, Pfleger apologized in a written statement saying:

"These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama's life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them."

Presidential candidate John McCain is among those who saw at least part of the speech, and he reacted Friday morning.

"I think that kind of language and that kind of treatment of Senator Clinton is unwarranted, uncalled for and disgraceful," McCain said.

Earlier, Senator Obama wrote: "I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric."

Mary Ann Hackett and her group, the Catholic Citizens of Illinois, called Father Pfleger an embarrassment to the church.

"The talk he gave on TV that has shamed all of Catholics was racist, and there was nothing Catholic about it," Hackett said. "It's a scandal in our church that he's allowed to do that, but it also is a shame to the rest of us."

Pfleger has pastored the St. Sabina parish on Chicago's South Side for more than 25 years, growing it into one of the most vibran, predominantly African-American Catholic churches in the country.

Seven years ago, Cardinal Francis George threatened to move Pfleger to another parish but relented under community pressure.

Late Friday morning, Cardinal George released a statement Friday reminding people that the Roman Catholic Church does not endorse political candidates. The cardinal also wrote:

"Fr. Pfleger has promised me that he will not enter into campaigning, will not publicly mention any candidate by name and will abide by the discipline common to all Catholic priests."

But a promise is not enough for Hackett, who has seen and heard enough from the outspoken South Side priest.

"We're calling on the cardinal to remove Father Pfleger immediately as pastor of that church. He doesn't represent the Catholic teaching. He doesn't represent the Catholic faith, and he scandalizes all of us," she said.

The cardinal, who also criticized the tone of Pfleger's sermon, gave no indication Friday that he considered removing the priest from St. Sabina.

It will be interesting to see how Pfleger does not mention Barack Obama by name, given the fact he has been one of the most outspoken Obama supporters.

"I'm sorry for what he said. It's bad to say, it doesn't reflect Barack Obama's views and I don't believe what father mike had to say will help," said Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Senator Clinton had an appearance in Puerto Rico set to begin around 6 p.m. She might address the issue in her own words at that time.


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