CHICAGO (CBS) — The Rev. Michael Pfleger is renewing a threat to leave the Catholic Church if forced out of his pastorship at St. Sabina Church.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, back in 2001, when Francis Cardinal George first took steps to replace Pfleger at St. Sabina, the passionate priest threatened to leave the Catholic Church.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports
Pfleger is still at Sabina a decade later, and has been pastor there nearly 30 years.
Over the weekend, Pfleger told the public radio program “Smiley and West” that if it came to a choice to become principal of Leo High School, to become pastor of another Catholic church, or to leave the church, he would look at the third option.
But said he wants to stay in the Catholic Church.
Pfleger also said on the program that he has been banned from speaking at events, and blamed critics on the political right for the calls to remove him.
“There are two main groups that seemingly have put a big push on to get rid of me in the last year, and that is the right-wing conservative Catholics, and that is also the NRA, who said I have been much too vocal about assault weapons; much too vocal about guns being accountable; guns being registered to gun owners,” he said.
George said last month that he wants Pfleger to leave the pastorship at St. Sabina and take over Leo High School. But Pfleger said the school is “literally dying.”
“I’d have no power to do anything but sit there and raise money,” Pfleger said.
Pfleger said he would have been willing to take leadership of Leo High School under St. Sabina, and would like to hire a new principal there. But this was not present as an option.
“What they really want to do is take Sabina back to the 1950s, or take off this progressive thought – these people that speak for themselves, that speak up for themselves – and they want people to just go sit down in the pew and do what you’re told,” Pfleger said on the program. “Well I’ve got news for them. Whether Mike Pfleger is here or not, that ain’t going to happen at St. Sabina, because the people here are different people.”
Pfleger has plenty of supporters. A group of ministers, including some who met recently with Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, clearly doesn’t think Pfleger should leave St. Sabina and have rallied on his behalf.
Other priests, who preferred to remain anonymous, have also said they think the cardinal should just leave Pfleger where he is.
For their part, Leo’s faculty has given the impression they’re doing just fine without Pfleger.
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.