Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fr. Pfleger...he didn't think he was being "filmed"

Apparently, the outrageous things he said such as: while supposedly imitating Hillary Clinton, saying, "I really believe that she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white, and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate.' Then out of nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said, 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show!'" Would have been okay if as long as he wasn't film, no foul! Tsk, tsk, tsk...he also admits that he, as a Catholic priest, is not allowed to offer support publicly to one candidate over another...yet...that didn't stop him from doing so and not just at Trinity Church, but at his own St. Sabina's as well. A week prior to his comments at Trinity, he stated during a homily at St. Sabina's: "Hillary and McCain would wish they had a preacher with the integrity of Jeremiah Wright. … They got some old weak preacher…some old Joel Osteen cotton candy preacher."

Pfleger: 'This is a dangerous time in America . . . you have to whisper your thoughts'

EXCLUSIVE Contrite Father Mike regrets Hillary 'dramatization,' pain he's inflicted on his church
June 3, 2008

BY CATHLEEN FALSANI Religion Columnist

On Sunday morning, I was enjoying a brisk walk along the Hudson River in lower Manhattan and some quiet contemplation when my cell phone rang. It was my editor.

"Mike just called, and he wants to talk, but he'll only talk to you," he said.

Mike, as in the Rev. Michael Pfleger, the perpetually embattled pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in Chicago, who most recently has been under siege from comments he made about Hillary Clinton a week ago from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ -- a k a Barack Obama's former (as of Saturday) church.

"Oh, really? Well I don't want to talk to him," I said. "I'm pissed at him. How could he do this? He probably thinks I'm a sympathetic ear, but I'm not. I pretty much want to slap him."

"Just think about it," my editor said with a whiff of smugness, "and call me back in five minutes when you've changed your mind."

I hate it when he's right.

I've been writing about Pfleger for almost as long as I've been writing about anything in Chicago. He's a perennial source for theologically intriguing, often controversial, sometimes plainly outlandish stories on the religion beat. Pfleger, 59 years old and a priest for 33 of those years -- nearly all of them served at St. Sabina in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood -- has never met a cardinal-archbishop of Chicago he didn't aggravate. During his tenure, the activist priest has had throwdowns with all three of the "men in the red dresses," as we call them, who have run the Catholic Church in this town.

Pfleger is always in trouble over something, with someone.

This time, the tone is a little different, as Pfleger's waves have made a loud, acrimonious splash on the national and international scene. In video clips broadcast on YouTube, he stood in the same pulpit the Rev. Jeremiah Wright vacated not too long ago, mocking Clinton's tearfulness earlier this spring on the campaign trail and accused her of expecting white entitlement in the face of her black opponent's wildly successful campaign.

In the wake of the Clinton flap, Cardinal Francis George officially silenced Pfleger, whom he had pressured to resign a month ago from the Catholics for Obama committee.

"He and I have had conversations, and I won't go into the conversations; I'll only say that he has asked me to remove myself from Barack's public campaign -- from the group Catholics for Obama -- and that was before all of this," Pfleger told me as we sat alone in a conference room Monday in Sabina's rectory. "He said that, as a Catholic priest, I'm not allowed to publicly support a candidate. I said my understanding was that, as an individual, I can support anyone I want, but that I would never tell parishioners who to vote for. First of all, from my point of view, that insults the congregation. They make their own choice.

"While I disagreed with him, I told him that I did not want to create another distraction for him or for Barack," Pfleger said. "So I wrote a letter to Barack, telling him just that: that I did not want to create a distraction for him, that the cardinal has said no priest is allowed to have his name on a [campaign committee] and that this is a bishop's rule throughout the country. Now, I don't know because I haven't done all the research, but he told me there is no other priest in anybody's campaign listing of support around the country."

As for his performance from the Trinity pulpit at a Sunday night service May 25, Pfleger has apologized for "the words that I chose" and for "my dramatization." Pfleger told me he called the Clinton campaign to apologize directly but had not heard back from Clinton or her representatives.

All that is well and good, but how, as a friend and passionate supporter of Obama's campaign for president, could he do what he did, with cameras rolling?

Pfleger's short answer? He didn't think the service and his "conversation" -- a more casual address than a classic sermon, he explained -- were being broadcast live online, as Trinity often does.

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