Priest: ‘I Have My Reservations’ About Moving To St. Sabina

CHICAGO (CBS) — Caught in the middle of the feud between suspended St. Sabina Pastor Michael Pfleger and Cardinal George is one of the priests assigned to fill the gaps in Pfleger’s absence.

CBS 2’s Suzanne LeMignot talked with Father Andrew Smith, and he had some pretty strong words about his new role.

“I have my reservations,” a candid Smith said about Cardinal George’s decision to appoint him to St. Sabina Church to assist the current associate pastor. “I don’t want to go. I love it here [at St. Ailbe’s]. But I was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“The church says we have to take a vow of obedience. When the Cardinal says go. You’ve got to go.”

Smith’s move from St. Ailbe’s parish to St. Sabina comes after Father Michael Pfleger was suspended by George on Wednesday.

George issued the suspension letter to Pfleger, stating “your ministry as pastor of St. Sabina and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.”

The cardinal took particular issue with Pfleger’s repeated statements in both local and national media that George was trying to remove him from St. Sabina and transfer him to Leo High School as president. Pfleger has been feuding with George about plans to transfer him from St. Sabina.

Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 36 years. The average tenure of a priest before being transferred to another church in Chicago, is six years.

Smith will be assisting Rev. Thulani Magwaza, who is the associate pastor at St. Sabina.

“When we preach the good news, we preach the good news,” Smith said. “It’s not about me. It’s not about Mike Pfleger. The church is Jesus Christ’s church.”

“It’s not about building a kingdom or a cult where people just follow you. … I’m not saying [Pfleger’s] doing that but he’s been there so long, that’s why we have this situation now and understandably, people are hurt. They’ve got the right to be hurt. He’s been there. He’s done a lot of great things.”

Smith, a former Chicago cop, says what bothers him the most, are what he calls all the misrepresentations.

“I spent 10 years in the police department so I want to tell everybody, the people of Chicago, I ain’t no joke. I ain’t your punk, I ain’t your pawn, I ain’t no sissy. I come here to proclaim the good news.”

  • tunafish charlie

    Hay officer SMITH/ father O’SMITH..hay i wonder if you’re still packing heat…LORD KNOWS that hood needs it

  • Bob

    Being a cop and now a Priest, you understand the need to follow orders and have structure. Pfleger got too into himself and took it upon himself to change things to server his purpose and not the Church. He was not doing those people any good, even though that all think he did. His blatant disregard for the proper vestments to his preaching style was wrong. Good riddance!

    • Dee

      What exactly do you mean by those people? I am sure I know but I would really like you to explain it so I am sure I am right? Here’s a phrase for you “Vatican II” look it up, read about it, based on your comments you will learn something! His” cultural” Vestments are within the guidlines of the church, perhaps if you left the trailer park occasionally you would know that? Preaching style? HELLO he PREACHES THE GOSPEL ! As ordained by the CATHOLIC CHURCH!!! Tell you what why don’t you stop on by St. Sabina some time as “one of THOSE PEOPLE” I am sure you will be suprised by our parish, we are a great group of people! We even suffer folls like yourself!

    • rae

      amen to finally getting rid of father pfleger–he’s the reason some people aren’t religious–he misused his position and never should have been allowed to stay after he supported rev. wright and publically put down women and hilary clinton.

      • Lyndia

        It is people like you, that make people like me be against religious.



    • Dee

      Thank you for you comments! This is proof positive that what, people have been saying all along is true! The attacks on St. Sabina it’s members and it’s priest are racially motivated ! Thank you for coming out of the closet! nothing worse than a CLOSET RACIST!

  • Valerie

    His preaching style is right. He saved tons i mean millions of souls that were going straight to hell without having the chance to get to purgatory. Those who obey Gods word always get the bad end of the deal. And now we see this happening all over again in the Ctholic Church. Vow of obedience, celibacy and all that inner voice calling you to serve almighty God others do not understand.
    He should be made a saint. He surely got a place in heave when he gets there some day. Only God knows our future and 30 years of service is for nothing?
    Ask any cop, firefighter or any college professor… where they come from? and where are they going? Only the greve will tell us all the truth.

    • Catholic, too

      Valerie, I have to respectfully disagree with you. If Fr. Pfleger is to be made a saint, he needs to honor his vow (note VOW) of obedience.

      • Dee

        Catholic, too He has HONORED his VOW he has complied with the Church in every way! They said dont preach so he is not preaching! The VOW or Obedience means just that to OBEY he has done that! Does the Church wish to Destroy St. Sabina? Why dismantle one of the few viable parishes in the area? Why destroy the faith of so many of the faithful in the church? Think about it doesn’t this strike you as strange? Does this really seem like gods will? The Catholic Church has taken so many negative hits in recent years, yet the church seeks to dismantle a parish that works? Thats growing? Attracting young people, converts to the Catholic faith? Fr. Pfleger is a vessel of god! Only gods hand could do in that parish, that community what has been done in the last 30 years! Why would the Church seek to destroy that? Please people ask yourselves, WHY? This is not about RULES! This is about Gods Presence in that parish and that community! Do you think Fr Pfleger does it alone? Every member from the smallest to the oldest contributes to the sucess of St. Sabina! Why would the church seek to destroy that ? Why are they not sending young priests, and priests from failing parishes to St. Sabina to see how we communicatwe with god ? How god moves through us? How GODS power made change happen in a community in crisis 30 years ago? Please people ask yourselves WHY!

  • James Omalley

    sha na na na sha na na na hay hay hay good bye . . met that guy one time he gave dirty looks to all . all i say is CARMA babby

  • Rusty55

    Plfeger should have been gone 24 years ago. Shame on the Cardinals who didn’t insist he move on, they are equally to blame for his narcissistic behavior and thinking he can do whatever he wants. Plfeger a saint—I don’t think so!!!!!! It’s amazing Pleger has no statement for the media regarding his suspension, I bet he is just dumbfounded that he finally called on the carpet for his rantings of what he is going to do and not do. Good riddance Pfleger!!!!!!!!!!!

  • shell

    Wowee. There are many negative comments, but have any of YOU every attended a sunday service @ St Sabrina or do you attend any church services. Geeeeee

  • Pat Smith-Booze

    There are so few, if any catholic high schools in inner city Chicago for children graduating from Catholic grammar schools to attend. Father Pfleger should see this as a God given opportunity to utilize his 36 years of organizational and Pastoring skills to help fill this critical void by helping Leo High School to thrive once again..The support he would get from Catholic Grammar schools and parents all over the south side of Chicago would be overwhelming. He should look at this as a tremendous opportunity and an endorsement of his great leadership!!!

  • willie g

    i come here to proclaim the good news I AINT YOUR PUNK AND I AINT NO SISSY! WELL SISSY GO TO CHURCH TO father andrew smith.

    • Olvera

      Willie G, what are you saying, I want to understand your ccomment?

    • Drew

      You are right Willie G. I stand corrected and I ask for forgiveness. I have just been under a great deal of stress.

      Christ’s peace,
      Fr, Drew

  • tiredof bs

    well well well

  • Bre

    Chef thaks for your statement. Father Pflegler has only done good things for his church community and it is shameful that the cardinal is taking a personal attack toward him. The Catholic church should be enhancing his church community instead of destroying it.


    Catholic Church,there are bigger fish to fry Lest not forget your turning a blind eye to the pastors who disobeyed the laws of morality which in turn divided families such as molestation, rape, illegal financial gain throughout history, pro-slavery, anti female priests.
    Father Pfleger we need more open leadership like YOU
    A Rebel With A Cause

  • Mike Leahy

    Pflegler wants to change the rules to meet his own desires. This jerk does not serve any god. He serves himself.

  • Brenda

    I can understand both sides of this issue. To date my only comment has been that our priests and we as parishioners know that this is how the Church does things and we have to accept that. Now it affects my family and me. We are members of St Ailbe. Our parishioners love Fr Drew, as most parishes love their priests. He has been an ever-positive presence, a realist, a great role model for our youth as well as for us “seasoned” folks. He speaks frankly and honestly. I am saddened to think that this past Sunday, Easter Sunday, may be the last time I hear him deliver a homily to St. Ailbe. As parish members, we love our priests, our spiritual leaders, and I am sure that we all would like to be the exception to the rule and to say, “Don’t move our priest”. But as difficult as it may be, we all have to abide by the decisions made by the Church.
    And Fr Andrew Smith is completely accurate when he says he ain’t no joke.

  • Dee

    Very interesting comments by many, I would like to address a few, saying that Rev Dr. Father Michael Pfleger (that is his title) feels that he doesn’t have to follow the rules is interesting since he was OFFERED the position at Leo not APPOINTED he said he would take it into consideration and PROPOSED an idea the he thought might save the school. Fr. Pfleger is not nor has he ever been a teacher not has he held a position in any academic institution why would he be offereds a position in a high school? a failing high school at that? So you take a failing catholic High School in a black community and put in place an administrator who has no experience, no academic background at all? Really? Fr. Pflegler suggested that he would oversee the appointment of an EXPERIENCED academic administrator, to try to help turn the school around, but this is a bad idea why? why not offer him another Parish? When told the he cannot preach he complies EVERY SINGLE TIME! This is a witch hunt! One of the FEW SUCESSFUL GROWING catholic parishes in the chicago metro area and you want to destroy it? Why? If this is about got then GOD put Ff Pflegler at St. Sabina over 30 years ago it is God’s job to tell him when its time to go.

  • Olvera

    Father Andrew Smith was not only a Police Officer in Englewood, but a teacher at a Catholic highschool, and a student at Mt. Carmel highschool. He has also been a student that was inquisitive about the Catholic Church under the guidance of Father Pfleger. Maybe he would be a great candidate for Leo Highschool. Do not pit Priest against each other, let them serve God, and in serving God, they will serve the people. Stay prayerful people. We all know the devil is a LIAR.

  • robin ann

    Everyone in support of Fr. Pfleger is making references to how God has directed him in his role as pastor of St. Sabinas parish. I agree, he has done great and wonderful things for the parish and the community. BUT, how can you rally in judgment against a decision made by another priest, a cardinal, no less; is Michael Pfleger the only member of the order capable of hearing and sharing God’s Word? Is your faith in God so weak that you cannot see another man leading the parish? Do you not believe that God can work His will through another priest/pastor? It seems that you are all placing your faith in Fr. Pfleger, rather than God, the messenger instead of the Author. And if that is the case, you have either ignored the Word that has been taught, or the Word was not taught; yet another indictment in support of changing pastors. Perhaps the Word will be better learned from another; a part of the Word being obedience.

  • Charles

    It’s very interesting to me how people all over the country have comments about Fr. Pfleger who have never been to St Sabina, or the community in which he serves. The Cardinal has only been to St Sabina 4 times since he has been Cardinal, so I ask how is it he knows what is best for a community that he knows nothing about? If our church was on the north side our parish I feel would be treated with much more respect. No we don’t want our Pastor to leave, however we are “not” a cult as Fr. Smith stated we have been treated unfairly and with the upmost disrespect by our Shepard (Cardinal George) who has refused to get to know his sheep. Fr. Pfleger has been at St Sabina for over 36 years, he knows he can’t stay forever, all he asked was that a successor was put in place to continue his 36 years of service to our community. Fr. Thulani was brought to St Sabina by Cardinal George from South Africa to do just that. I ask now why isn’t that agreement being followed? Fr. Pfleger deserves better than this. I understand how others view our Pastor, a man who we love and revere. But he has been a light in a community that nobody gave a hoot about including the Cardinal for 36 years. Has the Cardinal ever came to our community and spoke out against violence, illegal activity, or lack of employment ? Has the Cardinal ever sincerely listened to our wishes and desires of the future of our own faith community? No, he hasn’t and that’s not Godly in any sense of the word. Fr. Smith I didn’t forget about you, how dare you make inflammatory comments such as those without even talking to Fr. Pfleger first to ascertain your own opinion to what is going on? Are you trying to be divisive and push this entire congregation away? So you’ve been a cop, and a teacher, and your not a punk, Fr. Smith if that’s the road you’ve taken you will find that we are no punks either !!! Jesus didn’t follow blindly behind the church, he challenged the church because he loved it. We love our church as well, and it’s a shame with churches and schools closing all the time that the Cardinal chooses to do this to the Largest African American church in her Diocese. A church that has been financially independent since 1989. A church that gives $90,000 to financially strapped Diocese on a monthly basis. A church that asks that we be treated fairly, with respect, and the love that Jesus would give us all.

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