Monday, February 10, 2003

Fr. Pfleger in Chicago, and Al Sharpton

You may have read the stuff recently in Catholic blogland about St. Sabina's parish in Chicago. Fr. Pfleger invited Al Sharpton to give the homily last Sunday. The consensus among some of St. Blog's episcopal watchdogs is that Cardinal George has shown grave cowardice and incompetence in not kicking Fr. Pfleger out of the priesthood. Go read Greg Popcak, who accuses Pfleger of being a heretic for twenty years (evidence?) and Dominic Bettinelli, who compares my support for Cardinal George with Cardinal Law's support for Fr. Shanley. (For a different opinion, look at Disputations here and here.

Both of these opinions are, in my opinion, over-reacting. Yes, it is true that Fr. Pfleger has built a cult of personality around himself. Yes, it is true that he has been repeatedly disobedient to his bishop. But it is also true that he took a dying parish in a poor, dangerous Black (African-American if you prefer) neighborhood and has made it thrive. Lots and lots of good things happen at that parish, and Catholic sacraments are still being given and received.

Now, the critics of Cardinal George (and there are many--I only linked two) would have the Cardinal do some sort of spectacular discipline on Fr. Pfleger, perhaps kicking him out of priestly ministry. It is very easy to thunder down anathemas, but may I remind you what Christ said? And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. The goal, the law of laws in the Church, is the salvation of souls! Many souls are likely being saved at St. Sabina's. If you beat up Fr. Pfleger, admittedly a disobedient and self-promoting priest, you will cause that parish to collapse, and probably to go into schism. If you use subtler means of discipline, or perhaps even use kindness, then maybe St. Sabina's can be saved.

I, for one, am going to give the Cardinal the benefit of the doubt. I suggest you do the same. Save your anathemas for Tom Daschle or Nancy Pelosi or Gray Davis. Pfleger isn't even pro-abortion!

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