CHICAGO (CBS) — Cardinal George on Wednesday suspended Father Michael Pfleger as pastor at St. Sabina’s, expressing frustration at Pfleger’s ongoing public statements regarding his tenuous future in the Chicago Archdiocese.
CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, George wrote a letter to Pfleger on Wednesday, stating “your ministry as pastor of St. Sabina and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.”
George took particular issue with Pfleger’s repeated statements in both local and national media that the cardinal was trying to remove him from St. Sabina and transfer him to Leo High School as president.
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“Our private conversation was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to ‘remove’ you from Saint Sabina’s. You know that priests in the Archdiocese are ‘removed’ only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor child or are guilty of financial malfeasance.”
Earlier this month, Pfleger told the public radio program “Smiley and West” that if it came to a choice to become president of Leo High School, to become pastor of another Catholic church, or to leave the church, he would look at the third option.
But he also said he wanted to stay in the Catholic Church. In his letter, George said that Pfleger had told him on several occassions that he did not want to stay at St. Sabina’s for the rest of his career.
In the letter, George said the opening at Leo High School “gave us the possibility of offering you a transfer that would keep you in the neighborhood and among the people to whom you have dedicated much of your life and also give you a position from which to continue to espouse the cause dear to you: education in the African American community.”
George went on to say that Pfleger left open the possibility of serving at Leo, but that Pleger’s public comments dictated otherwise.
“That process has now been short-circuited by your remarks .. that you will leave the Catholic Church if you are told to accept the assignment other than as pastor of St. Sabina. If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and therefore are not able to pastor a Catholic parish.”
George also said he deeply regrets that Plfeger’s “public remarks have brought you to a moment of crisis and I pray will quickly pass.”
Pfleger was not immediately available for comment.
He has served as pastor at St Sabina for nearly 30 years–far longer than the typical tenure for a pastor before being transferred to another assignment. Pastors are typically transferred between parishes several times during their ministry.
In the meantime, Father Thulani Magwaza, St. Sabina’s associate pastor, will run the parish with the assistance of Father Andrew Smith, currently at St. Ailbe Parish.