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Pfleger "In Shock" About Suspension

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 28, 2011 2:00PM

The backlash over Cardinal Francis George's suspension of St. Sabina Parish Rev. Michael Pfleger is starting to build. George wrote in a letter to Pfleger said that if the mercurial pastor would rather leave the Catholic Church than accept a transfer from St. Sabina, where he's been for over 30 years, then in George's opinion he's already left. Supporters of Pfleger say the pastor is "in shock" over the suspension and that they're offended that Pfleger, who rarely shies from an opportunity to make a sound bite, found out about his suspension through the media.

Associate minister Kimberly Lymore said that Pfleger's suspension was an "ambush" and showed a "lack of respect" to the pastor. George, in his letter to Pfleger, countered that his suggestions of transferring to struggling Leo High School or other assignments were merely that and that Pfleger himself indicated that he didn't want to spend the rest of his days ministering at St. Sabina.

At the root of the struggle between the two is George's belief that Pfleger is putting himself before the Church and defying his superior. From the letter:

"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. Bishops are held responsible for their priests on their assumption that priests obey them."

the letter seems to indicate that Geroge fully understands the scope of the fight he seems to be picking with Pfleger and the St. Sabina congregation. Priests are typically moved from their parishes every five years and can receive an extension. Pfleger has stayed at St.Sabina far longer than a priest typically does at another parish, and the ties he's forged with his congregation and the larger community from his ministry and activism at this point cold be cathartic for some to break.

George's suggestion that Pfleger take the job at Leo seems to recognize this. It keeps him in the community, near St. Sabina, and still allows him to serve the greater good, both the community's and, in George's view, the Church. Pfleger has remained quiet on his suspension.

For now, Pfleger's duties at St. Sabina will be handled by Associate Pastor, Fr. Thulani Magwaza.