So the Rev. Michael Pfleger, last seen mocking Sen. Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Barack Obama’s church, will be back at his parish by June 16. He was told to take a couple of weeks off from St. Sabina’s to reflect on Catholic rules regarding priests and politics. Those couple of weeks up, he’s been told he can go back.
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Mary Wisniewski reports on his impending return. The problems start with the headline and subhead:
Rev. Pfleger to return to St. Sabina with ‘no restrictions’
He’ll be back at St. Sabina, but he has to stay out of presidential politics
So which is it? Does he have “no restrictions” or does he have to stay out of presidential politics? Something tells me that headline won’t be winning any awards for clarity. Anyway, the story also raised more questions than it answered. At least for me:
At a three-hour Sunday mass filled with songs and dancing, pastoral associate Kimberly Lymore read a letter from Pfleger in which the priest wrote, “This has been a very painful time for me personally and for our church family.” . . .
Lymore said parish leaders were told by Cardinal George that Pfleger will continue as pastor of the church he has led for 30 years with “no restrictions” — other than not being able to mention publicly the names of presidential candidates or campaign for them. On hearing this, several parishioners called out “That’s all right.”
No priests are allowed to be involved in politics, that’s standard. Still, it is a restriction and one that was obviously emphasized for Pfleger. What other restrictions would even be discussed?
I would say that it should be explained what “pastoral associate” means for the female holding the position, but it looks like Chicago media, including Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani, have discussed the issue before. Perhaps it’s old news there.
These two paragraphs were interesting:
Asked if it was fair that Pfleger was restricted from talking about the candidates, longtime parishioner Michelle Wong Scott said, “a lot of times, when you’re a member, you have to follow your leadership and do what your leaders tell you to do.” She said if Cardinal George had removed Pfleger permanently, the parish would have continued the work he started.
Two other parishioners, Rhonda Williams and Leslie Ross, who are not Catholic, said they would have left St. Sabina’s and followed Pfleger to a new church if he had been removed.
It’s the second paragraph that I didn’t quite understand. What does it mean to be a parishioner of a Catholic parish but not be Catholic? It would be much easier to understand in non-sacramental churches. But parishioners can’t take communion unless they’re Catholic and communion is central to the life of the parish, right? So what does it mean exactly? It would be good to have a bit more explanation.