Father Pfleger mum on suspension

April 28, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Cardinal George announced the suspension on Wednesday ending the priest's 30 years of service at the South Side church located at 1210 W. 78th Place.

Many of the church's parishioners said they were shocked and angered by the suspension of their pastor.

While George insists the suspension is not personal, St. Sabina parishioners said the way it was done was insensitive. They claim the cardinal simply handed Father Pfleger his suspension letter, refused to discuss it, then promptly shared it with the Chicago press corps.

The protesters took their complaint's straight to the cardinal's front door. Their message: St. Sabina wouldn't be the same without their outspoken pastor.

""This has hit us like a ton of bricks, but we are not down, we are not lifeless," said Kimberly Lymore, associate minister.

"Leadership of St. Sabina is very upset and deeply concerned about the suspension of Father Pfleger and is requesting that his suspension be lifted immediately," said Isadore Glover, St. Sabina Parish Council chairperson.

Father Pfleger's supporters suspect the feud with Cardinal George is more personal than professional; the cardinal's motives more sinister than spiritual.

The apparent tipping point was a radio interview earlier this month in which Pfleger threatened to leave the Catholic Church rather than accept a transfer.

"I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church. If they say go to the high school or leave, then I have to look outside the church," Pfleger said on the show.

In an open letter to Pfleger, Cardinal George wrote, "If that's truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are not able to pastor a Catholic church."

For his part, Father Pfleger has stayed out of the spotlight since making a brief appearance Wednesday night at a community basketball program he runs in the church gym. He did, however, honor a previous commitment to talk to several journalism students from Columbia College.

"He was a little confused about what the meeting was about, but he really wasn't expecting a suspension," said Jennice Dominguez, who interviewed Pflger.

"He has devoted 30 years of his life to helping that community and I think he wants to continue it as long as he can," said Cassandra Norris, who also interviewed Pfleger.

ABC7 has obtained a letter from March in which Father Pfleger tells Cardinal George he didn't feel called or qualified to run nearby Leo High School as the cardinal had requested. Pfleger suggested Leo be folded into St. Sabina and he could have an active role in both. Pfleger thought the conversations would continue. Then came the letter of suspension.

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