Cardinal George suspends Father Michael Pfleger

April 27, 2011 8:15:44 PM PDT
Father Michael Pfleger -- the outspoken, but highly popular pastor of St. Sabina's Church-- was suspended by Chicago Roman Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Francis George Wednesday afternoon.

In the curt public rebuke, Chicago Roman Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Francis George writes about the proposal for Pfleger to leave St. Sabina's parish and move to Leo High School, a move Pfleger publicly stated he did not want. However, in the letter, Cardinal George writes that Father Pfleger had said several times that Pfleger did not want to spend the rest of his ministry at the South Side church. In the letter, Cardinal George writes to Pfleger that the pastor "promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it."

Father Pfleger has been at St. Sabina's, a black parish, for years. He is white.

Cardinal George also wrote, "I deeply regret that your public remarks have brought you a to a moment of crisis that I pray will quickly pass."

Cardinal George writes "our private conversation was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to 'remove' you from Saint Sabina's. You know that priests in the Archdiocese are 'removed' only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor or are guilty of financial malfeasance. In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another according to the polices in place for the last forty years."

Cardinal George asks Father Pfleger to "take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitment." Father Pfleger's associate pastor, Father Thulani Magwaza, will serve as administrator at St. Sabina's, according to Cardinal George.

Cardinal George said he made the letter public because he did not want to avoid any misrepresentations. Read the Full Letter

It is the second time in three years that Cardinal George has suspended Father Pfleger. The last time was because of racially charged comments made about then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Trinity Unity Church of Christ.

Father Pfleger wouldn't talk Wednesday night about the feud that now threatens his very ministry.

St. Sabina's lay leaders plan a formal response to the cardinal, who they say has refused to meet with them in recent months, even as he publicly contemplated moving Pfleger to run nearby Leo High School.

"We are in shock," said Kimberly Lymore, St. Sabina associate minister. "We have not gotten one response from the cardinal and all of a sudden then he's going to suspend him for what reason, we don't know. So we are upset, we are very upset."

"I don't want to call the cardinal a liar, but maybe there is misunderstanding of communication," said Rochelle Crump, St. Sabina parishioner.