CHICAGO (CBS) — New voices have begun to join in the debate over whether Rev. Michael Pfleger should remain at St. Sabina Church or move to a nearby Catholic high school. But Francis Cardinal George still isn’t saying whether he’ll make the move.
Father Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 30 years, far longer than priests are normally allowed to stay at one parish.
CBS 2 Correspondent Jay Levine broke the story last week about the cardinal’s push to transfer Pfleger to Leo High School. He has new details on the continuing controversy.
So far, Cardinal George has refused to speak publicly about Pfleger’s future and he did so again on Thursday when asked about it.
But the longer Pfleger remains in limbo, the more voices are joining the debate.
On Thursday, Cardinal George presided over an unprecedented gathering of students from Catholic high schools throughout Chicago and its suburbs.
Students gave up part of their spring break to join him in prayer at Holy Name Cathedral.
Among the students the Cardinal greeted afterward were several young men from Leo High School, where the cardinal wants Pfleger to take over as school president.
Leo faculty member Velma Smith said the cardinal has spoken to her about the Pfleger controversy.
“It was amazing that he stopped in the middle of all the people and said that it was unfortunate the way it came out and I agreed with him,” Smith said.
The Cardinal was less than anxious to speak with reporters about the controversy and he declined to answer questions about Pfleger’s status.
He declined to say anything when asked whether it was time for Pfleger to leave St. Sabina.
A group of ministers, including some who met recently with Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, clearly doesn’t think Pfleger should leave St. Sabina, as they have planned to hold a rally in support of Pfleger on Friday.
“Father Mike has stood with the community for more than 30-years,” Rev. Tyrone Crider, pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, said Thursday. “We want to stand with him in the time of this challenge to his ministry.”
Right after the school mass, there was a rally at Leo High School; a show of pride and determination at a school hurt by the implication that Pfleger was being brought in to rescue a failing institution.
Leo supporters said the school has already launched a comeback from years of declining enrollment.
Asked if Pfleger would be a welcome addition at Leo High School, Smith said “I don’t think we have a choice in this. Of course, we are very intelligent people over there at Leo and we would welcome Father Pfleger, but it’s not our decision.”
“We have to go on. Our main goal is to educate our children and make sure they are prepared to be young men of the future,” Smith added.
Leo’s faculty has given the impression they’re doing just fine without Pfleger.
Other priests, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they think the cardinal should just leave Pfleger where he is.
The Cardinal maintains that term limits – either six , or at the most, 12 years – are set by a council of priests. In the end, the cardinal himself has the final say on where Pfleger will be assigned.