The latest from Chicago:
From WLS, Chicago:
Father Michael Pfleger celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday as well as his first mass since being reinstated as pastor of Saint Sabina Catholic Church.
Father Pfleger apologized to his congregation for the unsettled period over the past three weeks during his suspension, but he expressed his gratitude to Francis Cardinal George and encouraged parishioners to do the same.
The cardinal suspended Pfleger following comments Pfleger made about leaving the church rather than being removed from Saint Sabina.
Pfleger today said that his words were misinterpreted.
I have personally spoken to four members of St. Sabina parish and have found them to be sincere, caring people who love Jesus…but who have not really been taught the Catholic Faith, particularly the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I do not think it is fair to refer to the parishioners as “disobedient” or “dissenting”. It has become clear to me that, though Fr. Pfleger has done much good in the community, particularly for young people, his failure to instruct his flock in core teachings of the Faith has resulted in the fullness of the Faith being hidden from them, something that can only be detrimental to their spiritual lives, not beneficial.
As always, I ask for prayers for the members of St. Sabina parish, for Fr. Pfleger, and for Cardinal George. Let us pray for the return of this prodigal son who has taken a positive step in reflecting a sense of obedience to Holy Mother Church. All things are possible with God.
Updates at the bottom. . .
The Chicago Tribune and WBEZ are reporting that Cardinal George of Chicago has removed from his parish of Saint Sabina and suspended Father Michael Pfleger sacramental priestly faculties ultimately due to his disobedience.
In a public radio show Father Pfleger threatened to leave the Catholic Church if he were to be reassigned to a Catholic High School by Cardinal George, his archdiocesan archbishop.
Cardinal George was disappointed in this particular response, “If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish(.)”
A Catholic priest’s inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop. . .Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church. . .With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.
An “associate” minister of Saint Sabina’s Church, Kimberly Lymore, promised to have an “official” response from the Saint Sabina “leadership” to Cardinal George’s actions.
Well I have to say is Father Pfleger had certainly pushed the boundaries of patience on this one. To say that this was a “shock” or unexpected would be disingenuous of Father Pfleger.
Cardinal George is well within his authority as an apostle of the Church to govern his flock as stated in his role as Archbishop.
Obedience is certainly expected of all archdiocesan priests, but to have Father Pfleger not only disobey the wishes of his archbishop, but publicly threaten to leave the Church if he were to be reassigned to another post went beyond disobedience.
Pray for Father Pfleger, Cardinal George, and the parish of Saint Sabina’s.
Update I: Here is the letter Cardinal George handed to Father Pfleger personally simultaneously telling him he doesn’t want to ‘hear it’ about his options. For the letter click here.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a bishop I have admired most of all for the heroic effort he has put into encouraging priestly vocations, has an excellent article on his blog reminding us of a reality we should have learned in the last two millenia:
Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, brothers are human.
That means, we are sinners.
Yes, religious people are people….and people sin.
He goes on.
Our faith is not in popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, or even in monsignors. Nope: our faith is only in Jesus. He and He alone will never let us down; He will never sin; He and He alone will never break a promise; He and He alone deserves our absolute trust and confidence.
That’s why it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop. If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with. We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.
I think I should share a bit about my story as a convert in order to help expand on his points. I never really knew Jesus growing up. My parents were protestant and, being big believers in the protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, made sure that I had a Bible in my hands and expected that I would figure it out. I had a problem accepting Jesus in the manner that my parents had, though. I could not get past John 6:
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
Mind you, many people will believe as those who quarreled, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” In order to both ask that question and persist in asking it, you have to posses in your mind an unbending idea that it is an impossible thing. That belief that it is impossible is what protestants have not, and possibly cannot, overcome. It is those who continue to believe that it is an impossible thing who continue to reject what Jesus said in reply to their objection.
As a fifteen-year-old daughter of protestants, I understood what He was saying, and I understood many of the supporting parallels throughout Scripture, on some level. I had no problem believing that it “could” be possible. After all, God is the Creator of all flesh. I understood on a very basic level “why” He would ask us to believe this very incredible thing in order to have eternal life. The only thing I did not know was “how” He could do it. I knew of no church that taught such a thing. For this reason, I could not accept that Jesus was the Son of God…..just yet. I made a promise to God the Father, if you will show me “how” this is possible, I will believe that Jesus is Your Son, join that church, and follow Him always.
It was in 1982 that I made that promise to God. I was very sincere, but I was apparently not ready yet because it was not until Ash Wednesday, 1991, that God finally showed me “how”. The first time I ever attended a Catholic Mass (apart from the funeral of one of my parents’ friends when I was a small child), I witnessed the Holy Mass and knew “how” Jesus made possible what He commands in John 6. I had found God, at last, after a life of what might be called a sort of agnosticism. My joy was immense, and remains to this day, but especially at Holy Mass.
And nothing the priest says in his homily, and no sin that any priest anywhere commits, can take away from that joy.
It is for this reason that, for the life of me, I cannot even get my mind around why there is a propensity on the part of so many to act as if the whole world is crumbling because priests and bishops are sinners….or who act as if the Church is evil because some priests have sinned. Jesus is in the tabernacle: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
When people protest due to the sins of some priest somewhere in the world, I always think of the words of St. Peter, the first Pope:
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Jesus is present in the tabernacles of Catholic churches (and only Catholic churches) worldwide. When I hear someone speak of leaving Him, it is what St. Peter must have felt in that moment that I feel. Simply dumb-founded.
Read Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s article: A Blessed Holy Week
The Episcopal Church?
Cardinal’s Mahony or O’Malley’s Archdioceses?
If you guessed any of these you’re pretty darn close!
(Hat Tip: Creative Minority Report)
Father Edward L. Beck, a Passionist Priest, and a contributor to ABC, wrote a column for ABC in which he calls for Vatican III. I think the article is worth a fisking.
April 2, 2010 —Surely this was originally intended for April 1?
As Christians begin their celebration of the Easter season, the Catholic church seems stuck in Good Friday. No Father, the Catholic Church is always ”stuck” in Easter. Just when some would like to turn their attention to the profound mysteries of their faith, they are instead mystified by yet another round of horrendous sex abuse storiesmaking headlines. Yeah, totally by accident, and too bad Father doesn’t spend time mentioning how spurious this piece of tripe by the New York Times was.
Most Catholics in the United States were convinced that the issue of sexual abuse by priests had been adequately dealt with after the last go round more than eight years ago. I do not think this is the case. Most Catholics in this country are still fuming about predator priests and the bishops who protected them. Many are also outraged by the ambulance chasing attorneys and the suspicion that some of the victims are merely cashing in on flimsy evidence. There is still a lot of outrage about this whole mess. In many ways, it has been. U.S. bishops adopted strict policies of zero-tolerance after the abuse scandal exploded in 2002. Bishops are now required to comply with state laws for reporting abuse and to cooperate fully with authorities. For the most part the stories once again generating news in the United States concern old cases and the previous negligence of bishops to deal effectively and justly with the crisis. New to the controversy has been the suggestion by some that the Pope himself bears responsibility for lapses. Actually such accusations have been flying around for years. They have gotten nowhere because they lack substance.
The recent reports indicate this is not — and never has been — a distinctly American church problem. I doubt if many Catholics in this country thought that it was. The European Catholic Church is now experiencing what the U.S. Catholic Church did nearly a decade ago. Once reports from Pope Benedict’s native Germany emerged that boys had been abused in a church-run school there, hundreds more from other European countries came forward admitting that they too had been victims of abuse decades ago. We have not heard the last of these stories. Africa and Latin America have yet to weigh in, but they will. Reports from those parts of the world will eventually emerge to increase the dismay of those who expected more diligence and, indeed, holiness, from religious institutions.
What is readily observable from the avalanche of reports is that the sexual abuse of minors is a systemic, worldwide problem. But it is not exclusively a Catholic or ecclesial one. True. It cuts across all faiths, institutions and family systems. Presently, however, it is the Catholic church in the spotlight, so it must take the lead in dealing with this issue in a transparent, effective and ultimately transformative way. Though its halo has been dimmed by past negligence, if only the scandal of the criminal protection afforded by bishops to predator priests had been limited to mere negligence the church can still be a beacon of light to lead the way if it now proceeds with haste and unwavering conviction. We might start by ordaining only those who believe what the Church teaches when it comes to sexual morality. We must also understand that a fair number of the people who attack the Church on this issue are motivated much more by raw hatred of the Church than concern for the victims. The evil from our ranks must be excised, but let us not assume we will receive plaudits from the World for doing so.
So then, what is the best way for the church to move forward? Dramatic failure requires a dramatic solution. Nothing gets the attention of the church and, perhaps the world, like a Vatican Council. Here we get to the purpose behind this article. The last one, of course, ended more than 45 years ago in 1965. While some would maintain that we have yet to fully execute the decrees of that Council, the world and the church have changed dramatically in the interim. When has the World not been changing? As to Vatican II, all the turmoil in the Church since that Council should cause us to hesitate before calling the next one. The current crisis in the church can serve as the impetus for once again calling together the worldwide church community in pursuit of modernization, reform and spiritual integration for a new time and world. Always be alarmed when anyone proposes a radical step for the sake of vague terms like modernization, reform and spiritual integration.
What issues might this Council address? The death of the Faith in Europe? Rampant immorality? The failure of the Novus Ordo Mass to inspire many Catholics? Many to be sure, but chief among them could be the current crisis confronting the priesthood. Homosexuality? Lack of fidelity to their vows? A desire for a life of ease? Certainly the issue of sexual abuse and the devastating toll it has taken in the church might be examined and addressed definitively, once and for all. In addition, while pedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors and priestly celibacy are not organically related, the abuse crisis has once again raised the issue of the necessity and relevancy of mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests. How long has celibacy been bugging you Father? Wasn’t that particular requirement spelled out clearly enough for you when you were ordained? The majority of Catholics and priests want an open discussion about this issue, but up to this point, that has not been permitted. Rubbish. This “ issue” isn’t even on the radarscope for most priests and laity.