New Priest’s Arrival At St. Sabina Called ‘Slap In Face’

UPDATED 04/29/11 11:22 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A new priest was ordered to move into the rectory at St. Sabina parish to replace the suspended Rev. Michael Pfleger Friday morning, a decision that church representatives said was a “slap in the face.”

The Rev. Andrew Smith called the church around 8:30 a.m. to announce that he would move into the rectory, at 1210 W. 78th Pl., in 20 minutes, according to a e-mail news release from the church. He said he had been ordered to do so by Francis Cardinal George and his immediate subordinate, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, according to the release.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports

The church and its administrator, the Rev. Thulana Magawaza, had not been notified that Smith was moving in, a release from the church said.

“Again, the Saint Sabina Family has been disrespected and slapped in the face by the Archdiocese of Chicago,” the church release said.

Members of the church leadership had even stronger words at a later news conference.

“There’s been absolutely no communication at all, with us, with the Cardinal,” Vince Clark, assistant to Pfleger, told reporters. “I don’t think a wealthy white parish would be treated with the level of disrespect that the largest African-American Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Chicago has received. This is nothing short of plantation politics.”

Cardinal George issued a letter to Pfleger on Wednesday, announcing that the St. Sabina pastor was to be suspended for his comments in which he talked about leaving the Catholic Church if he was transferred from St. Sabina to a post at the helm of nearby Leo High School.

In the letter Wednesday, George said, “Your ministry as pastor of St. Sabina and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended.”


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.

“I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church. If they say, ‘You either take this principalship at the high school or the pastorship there, or leave, then I have to look outside the church,” he said.

George responded in the letter, “If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and therefore are not able to pastor a Catholic parish.”

Pfleger was also suspended in 2008, after making racially charged comments about then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton when she was running in the Democratic presidential primary against eventual winner Barack Obama.

At that time, the church said, the Rev. William Vanecko was temporarily brought in to replace Pfleger, who in turn was eventually reinstalled. But Vanecko was never ordered to move into the rectory.

“Is the message that they’re sending is that the faith community of St Sabina is incomparable of continuing the ministry of St Sabina?” the church release said.

Smith told CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot that he had his reservations about going to St. Sabina, and liked his assignment at St. Ailbe Church, 9015 S. Harper Ave.

But, the Chicago Police officer turned priest said, “The church says we have to take a vow of obedience. When the Cardinal says go, you’ve got to go.”

Smith will assist Magawaza, who is the associate pastor.

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

As for Pfleger, he has not addressed the mainstream media, but he did hold an interview with some Columbia College journalism students.

“You could tell that what’s been going on in the last 24 hours has really been taking a toll on him,” said Columbia journalism student Cassandra Norris. “He was shell-shocked. That was basically his feelings. He was not expecting to be suspended, and that’s the extent of his comments on that.”

Cardinal George was expected to fly to Rome for the beatification ceremonies of Pope John Paul II.

  • Native Chicagoan

    Prediction: The people of St. Sabina will rise above this rancor and will welcome Father Andrew Smith into their hearts and minds and souls, and Father Smith will be a wonderful replacement.

    • bob albert

      We agree with your prediction Native Chicagoan.

    • Gerry

      while the catholic church is not a democarcy it is not a DICTATORSHIP! if the catholic church , the archdiocise is not willing to listen or dialogue with the christian communities (such as St. Sabina ), then waht does that say about the church? Is it fair to reward a dutiful servant of the church with such shame and embarrasment. All Pfleger may have done was invoke his right to freedom of speech as granted the the US constitution and that is not a valid reason to remove him from his church. Child molesting priest are given more dignity.

      • Lori Trentanelli

        1.) The people of St. Sabina do not own that property.
        2.) The US Constitution does not effect how the Catholic Church runs.
        3.) This has nothing to do with molestation of anybody, but is about a priest who thinks he is above the promises he made when he was ordained.

      • Lyndia

        I agree.

    • Pam RIchardson

      St. Sabina will close without Fr. Pfleger

      • Beth

        Well said Richard! The man is not a priest of the Catholic Church that I belong to and believe in. He is like Obama, he has his own agenda and people that follow him are going along for the ride.

      • Richard

        Well, it sounds that the ” parish ” is following the priest instead of the catholic doctrine.

        And as a ” priest ” his attitude is more of a seditious manner to the vocation that he has chosen.

  • T

    “I really believe that I just always thought, ‘This is mine! I’m Pfleger, I’m white, and this is mine! I just gotta get up and step into the plate. And then out of nowhere came, ‘Hey, I’m Associate Pastor Father Thulani Magwaza or African American Priest Father Andrew Smith!’ and I then said, ‘Oh, damn! Where did you two come from? I’M WHITE! I’m Pfleger and I’m entitled! There’s a black man stealing my show! AND I’M SAYIN THAT I’M STAYIN EVEN IF IT KILLS THE PARISH!’

    AND REMEMBER, “You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements!”

    • FlangeSqueal

      Pfleger (I have LONG AGO stopped calling this fraud “Father”) has been allowed to take his parish down the road towards Baptist cafeteria-Christianity, mingled with pseudo-Afrikan nonsense that Pfleger thinks empowers his flock somehow. It has cheapened Catholic belief there and has undermined the teaching of true Catholic dogma, beginning with understanding of priestly obedience to vows long ago made sacred.

      Check the parish website. Pfleger has named a female as “Associate Minister,” and has allowed others in “leadership” positions to make statements to the media that call the Cardinal uncharitable names for excercising his duties as the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago. This “spokesman” for St Sabina’s has accused Cardinal George of “plantation mentality.”

      I believe the next chapter of this silly drama will be Pfleger leading his followers in an occupation of the Cardinal’s property – the sanctuary of St Sabina’s. You read it here, folks !

      In blindly following a white ‘priest’ that calls himself “Reverend Doctor Pfleger,” NOT “Father,” the congregation has proved, I think, they relish being considered chattel to Pfleger’s agenda – whatever that might be.

      • Liz

        If St. Sabina can’t be run like a Catholic church should be run, it should close. If they want St. Sabina to be run as a Catholic church, they need to bring in a new priest. Father Mike should join some other religion or start up his own religion somewhere else.

  • swizzle

    who cares, it’s clear politics are more important than the people who go to that church.

    • Jack Steen


      Pfleger spends his three hour “political diatribe” on secular matters and barely gets biblical !

  • streamwood bill

    This Pfleger guy needs to understand that his church is not a democracy….never was and never will be. That’s not what the catholic church is all about. Pfleger should now better. We are all sick and tired of hearing about his antics. He needs to go to Leo H.S. and do his work there as prescribed by the church heirarchy. Tired of seeing and hearing this priest in the media.

  • move on

    its a shame how the cardina did michael plegar he should get his own misinter and star some where else GOD still love him the cardina is not GOD.

    • Lori Trentanelli

      No, but under the promises Pfleger made when he was ordained, he is indeed responsible to His Eminence.

  • Katie

    I am sure the parish will welcome him with open arms, They should. NO MATTER WHAT COLOR YOUR SKIN IS. Change is good, keep you learning, we know your intelligent, and keeping your sprits up. Sad what happen to Pfleger, God has plans for him. He will move on, and he will continue to teach no matter where he is. God Sent Rev. Andrew Smith. There is something more Pfeger needs to do, and I am sure his journey will be exciting for him.

  • Me

    Hey I love Pflegar too… I fact used to work a summer job there back in the early 90’s. But people rules are RULES and LAWS are laws of which he preaches. If they say pastors usually only stay on for a couple of years than he IS in fact wayyyy past due!!!… He has been their 30 YEARS!!.. This IS the reality inwhich sane people are supposed to live. And again, it will be his choice if can’t move forward or resign all together. God bless you brother either way.

  • No Brainer

    So if your boss at work tells you that you are getting transferred to another dept. or another location, you get to tell him or her no and you get to keep your job? I doubt it. Those are the rules you agreed to when entering the sacrament of priesthood. Deal with it!

  • D A

    Father Pflegar needs to be taught a lesson……….. Keep your mouth shut and do your job!!

  • Max

    While the Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Chicago) is not a democracy, it should not be a dictatorship! The Cardinal refuses or has been unwilling to listen to the people of the St. Sabina Christian community. The community feels that Father Pfleger has been judged harshly and issued an unfair punishment by the high priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. For 30 years of devoted service he has been embarrassed in the public in this way. He has been suspended for his right to freedom of speech as granted to us all by the 1st amendment of the US constitution. Is he not allowed to talk about his future. Child molesting Priests (and you know who you are) are not removed from the church even when the evidence is clear. I do have a basis for this statement as I have attend catholic school from age 3 through 18. I have witnessed the abuses of child molesting priest. God is watching, and I pray that he will right this wrong!

    • Liz

      St.Sabina Catholic Chursh…not the people of the St. Sabina Christian community!

  • Truth

    Father Pfleger means the world to that church and its people. I don’t see what the harm is in letting him stay. He is a bright spot in the community and badly needed.

  • John

    I think sometimes people forget that you are at church to worship God. The pastor should not matter. I think people lose sight of this.

  • John

    this is a priest that feels he can do as he pleases.He is lucky he has stayed at St
    Sabina for this long.What makes him different from the other priest. He has to learn to obey.I feel he likes the limelight to much. Enough is enough. Do as your told.John

  • Lcdr Danny Rodriguez

    From the Code of Canon Law {Canon 273}: “Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and their own ordinary.” The obligation of obedience does not bind only clerics. all the faithful “are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the church.” (c212, #1). Clerics are bound by a special obligation. According to the “Presbyterorum ordinis” priests for their part should keep in mind the fullness of the sacrament of order which bishops enjoy & should reverence in their persons authority of Christ the supreme pastor … Priestly obedience, inspired through and through by the spirit of cooperation, is based on that sharing of th episcopal ministry which is conferred on priests by the sacrament of order and the canonical mission. We need to pray for all involved, but canon law is clear! “Obedience!”

    • Lori Trentanelli

      I keep telling people this. Some of them are stone deaf. Some confuse the US Constitution with canon law. Some keep bringing up the priest pedophile issue, which has nothing to do with this.

  • Gerry

    Danny, I don’t think that the issue is obedience. Pfleger has been an obedient servant of the church for over 30 years. the question is: Does the crime that Father Pfleger committed ( the right to freedom of speech under the 1st amendment, to talk about his own challenges) befitting the punishment (public humiliation and removal from his church)?

    • Philip J. Wayne

      Pfleger has been a bully for thirty years…..he has turned your church into a cult…..Christ is the King…not Pfleger. Time for him to leave the Church.

      • Lori Trentanelli

        And despite what “Max” states, Pfleger did NOT build that parish from the ground up. The basics were there when he started. Funny nobody mentions his cult of personality. Look how these people are treating poor Fr. Smith! The people of St. Sabina are poorly catechized, and have not been taught what the Catholic Church teaches. That was Pfleger’s responsibility, and he miserably failed.

    • Christian

      Yes it does-obedience is doing what you are DIRECTED to do, even if you disagree with it. And I am particularly amused by all the comments refering to constitutional rights, where is the seperation of Church and State?
      And all of this bru-ha-ha is the exact reason why priests should not remain at the same parish for such a long time. If all of these people at St. Sabinas want to belong to a church that has ‘lifetime’ ministers, than they need to look outside of the catholic church also, many other religions do not have such policys.

      • Gerry

        As an American we are all afforded constittional rights. Please research what it means when you site the seperation of church and state.

    • LB

      Everyone on this earth is obligated to the obedience of someone. Of course God/Jesus Christ is the Supreme One we are all obligated to whether we know it or like it or not. (This is the First Commandment). Under the Fourth Commandment, we all have other authority figures to be obedient to: For children it is their parents and teachers, for wives it is their husbands, for employees it is their employers, for police it is their sergeants, for priests it is their bishops and cardinals. We must follow this order of things if we are to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The only way we may divert from this is if the one in authority is telling us to do something against the directions of Jesus Christ. Then we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) obey them in that situation. Otherwise we are to just do it, whether we like it or agree with it or not. Father Pfleger is no exception to this. He can certainly try to persuede the Cardinal , but ultimately he must obey him. And imagine the many young lives he could touch and bring hope and truth to in the high school. The teens of America are swimming in a sea of darkness and sin being promoted and glamourized by the media today. Father Pfleger could bring them the truth of Jesus Christ in a real, down to earth way that they surely need today. There are a lot of great priests out there and with hope and prayer, Father Smith and Father Magwaza will be a great asset to the parish of St. Sabina.

      • Max

        Father Pfleger has built that church from ground zero. Not many priest in the city of Chicago wanted to go St. Sabina in the late 70’s. He was assigned to a “at risk” church that was targeted for closure. He has taken that church from less than 100 members to a membership in the thousands. St. Sabina is very capable of paying their bills and has operated in the black since 1988 when many catholic churches operate in the red! St. Sabina supports the Archdiocese with as much as $900K annually!! Pfleger has changed lives of the people of that community. This does nothing for bringing Catholics back into the church….and catholic membership is dropping sharply.

        Pledger’s situation is unique and should be given some consideration by the cardinal. He should not be publicly flogged in this way.

    • Lcdr Danny Rodriguez

      Freedom of Speech is under the US Constitution. Obedience is under the vows he took when he was ordained! On that day, the Pfleger went to the Cardinal-archbishop, knelt before him and placed his joined hands between those of the Cardinal-archbishop. The Cardinal-archbishop then asked him, point blank: “Do you promise respect and obeience to me and my successors? ” to which Pfleger responded “I do.” The Cardinal-archbishop then responded “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.” There is no room for interpretation in this. Either you do or you don’t. Pfleger publicly said if not my way, I’m history (interpretation mine), He is refusing to be obedient, as he vowed!

  • Cardinal: ‘Ball Really Is In (Plfleger’s) Corner Now’ « CBS Chicago

    […] RELATED: George’s Order ‘Slap In Face’ […]

  • Truth

    I don’t care for Pfleger, but after hearing this new guy’s statements earlier today he doesn’t sound like a priest either.

    • Olvera

      Have you witnessed what the parishoners and Father Pflegar did to Father Smith? Father Smith has a right to stand his ground. I have seen first hand how they treated this Priest who is following orders. He did not allow them to bully him. Good for Father Andrew Smith!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Philip J. Wayne

    No white parish has had one pastor for thirty years…this should never have been allowed. Pfleger is a wolf in sheep’s clothing…..he must go….he is a master manipulator of the cult called St. Sabina.

    • Liz

      No Catholic parish in the Chicago area has had the same pastor for thirty years except St. Sabina. Father Pfleger has stayed there way too long. I don’t understand why they didn’t transfer him long long ago.

  • Lyndia

    I was replying to another person’s blog. I do not agree with the person above me. They should not remove this man.They should remove those child molesting priests as oppose to transferring them.

  • stopain

    Lori Trenchmouth take a hike. who are you anyway?

  • Pam Richardson

    the new pastor looks like SHREK

  • Liz

    Most of the catholic parishes contrubute to the archdiocese and a few can’t do this and and have to be subsidized by other parishes. What are St. Sabina’s financials? Perhaps the archdiocese should close St. Sabina’s parish once and for all.

  • Centurion

    The Archdiocese should close St. Sabina…and let those moolies become Muslims, or some other weird baptist, pentecostal, and mixed religion that some homey can make up. The Catholic Religion is no place for moolies.

    Please note: it is CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE…..not Francis Cardinal George. Title precedes the name. Or, please call him ANDREW REVEREND SMITH.

    • Jack Steen

      Actually, if you were Roman Catholic, you would know that, in the case of a Cardinal’s nomenclature, the proper honorific order for the words IS Francis Cardinal George….the every day usage, of course, is Cardinal George.

      Don’t get too high on your horse, lest your fall be a great one, Centurion.

  • sarge

    you think now maybe with the realestate prices so low phleger can buy some land in Guayana and take all his whiny followers with him

  • sarge

    give the new guy a chance WHAT ARE YOU FOLLOWERS OF PHLEGER AFRAID OF ? IF TRULY YOU BELIEVE IN GOD and believe that Jesus is the center and all this is Gods work, not a mans work, than there is nothing to fear Gods work will preveil and your faith in God will bring you glory. it seems to me you FOLLOWERS of the priest have lost sight of the LORD GOD,

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live