When is enough, enough, for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s tolerance of Fr. Pfleger?

When is enough, enough, for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s tolerance of Fr. Pfleger? May 10, 2019; Daniel X. O’Neil from USA [CC BY 2.0 (]
In the news today, “A Catholic church hosted Louis Farrakhan for an anti-Facebook speech. At least one Jewish group was not happy about it“:

One week after Facebook banned Minister Louis Farrakhan and others for promoting “violence and hate,” the Nation of Islam leader insists that he is not a hateful person.
Farrakhan told those at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago on Thursday that he is “a hated man today.” . . .
Pointing to his mouth, Farrakhan said: “It’s this that they fear. I don’t have no army. I just know the truth. And I’m here to separate the good Jews from the Satanic Jews.” . . .
Saint Sabina live-streamed Farrakhan’s speech on its website and Facebook page, despite the ban on the controversial leader.

Farrakhan’s reference to “Satanic Jews” was pretty much par for the course, and the ADL lists a number of similar comments in a compilation on its website, for example:

“Satan is going down. Farrakhan has pulled the cover of the eyes of the Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through. You good Jews better separate because the satanic ones will take you to hell with them because that’s where they are headed.”— Saviours’ Day speech, 2/25/18

“Those who call themselves ‘Jews,” who are not really Jews, but are in fact Satan: You should learn to call them by their real name, ‘Satan;’ you are coming face-to-face with Satan, the Arch Deceiver, the enemy of God and the enemy of the Righteous.”— Saviours’ Day speech (part 2), 2/26/17

And what’s Saint Sabina?

The short answer is that it’s a historically-black Catholic church.

By the mere fact that they hosted this man who, however much he may inspire young black men, has proclaimed such hatred towards Jews, you’d think this would be one of those fringe groups, a splinter group that calls itself Catholic but is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. But, in fact, they’re part of the Archdiocese of Chicago, at least nominally.

In reality, well, I can’t particularly figure out from their website whether they teach Catholic doctrine, because their mission is one of activism, both within the community (the usual social services, job assistance, programs for children/young adults) and political activism (e.g., for gun control).  Oh, and there’s a parish school, but what they promote on their website is a sort of “African American pride” and the downloadable brochure says that they “learn Kwanzaa values . . . are more than just a season, they are guideposts by which successful people live their lives” (though in the school handbook they do state that they do “emphasize” Christian “values and beliefs” and even require that non-parish families be members at some church).

But beyond that, well, St. Sabina is the creation of Father Michael Pfleger.  And while he doesn’t preach the prosperity gospel in the way that Joel Osteen does, it is Pfleger who dominates the church, in a way that you can get a sense of from the online sermons (the most recent of which, on May 5, at about the 18 minute mark, has him announcing the upcoming speech in defense of Freedom of Speech, calling Farrakhan a “prophetic voice” and, as I continue to let it play as I write, takes the form of a self-esteem pep talk).   He may not be seeking the dollars of a Creflo Dollar, but what he thrives on appears to be the adulation he receives.

And you may be wondering how a Catholic priest can “own” a parish to such a degree, at least in the Archdiocese of Chicago where priests get rotated every 12 years, but Pfleger has gotten a pass, time after time.  In 2011, Cardinal George had finally had enough and was going to have to leave that parish and be transferred elsewhere, Pfleger had suggested that he would leave the Catholic church if he were forced to leave his parish (that is, taking the congregation elsewhere), and George backed down.  (Yes, Pfleger pseudo-apologized and there was supposed to have been a transition plan, but nothing ever really happened, and at this point I can only find a link in LifeSiteNews, but will assure readers that as a Chicago Tribune subscriber, this is legit.)

So, with that as context, what did the Archdiocese of Chicago/Cardinal Cupich say and do in reaction to Pfleger’s invitation to Farrakhan?

According to CNN,

Phil Andrew, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s director of violence prevention, was expected to be among those at the Illinois Holocaust Museum denouncing Saint Sabina for hosting Farrakhan, according to a museum spokesman.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago that its leader, Cardinal Blase Cupich, was not consulted before Pfleger announced the event with Farrakhan and that the archdiocese is “not sponsoring” the speech.

This statement says in full:

The event involving Minister Louis Farrakhan at St. Sabina Parish is not sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich was not consulted before Fr. Pfleger announced the event.

The framers of our Constitution included freedom of speech in the First Amendment because they knew that it was essential to a healthy democracy. Without this sacred right, injustice goes unchecked. This is precisely why it must never be abused.

There is no place in American life for discriminatory rhetoric of any kind. At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, when religious believers are murdered in their places of worship, we cannot countenance any speech that dehumanizes persons on the basis of ethnicity, religious belief, economic status or country of origin. We are all part of the human family, and we owe it to one another, our children — and our creator — to act that way.

And that’s it.  “We cannot countenance any speech that dehumanizes. . .” but “freedom of speech . . . [is] essential to a healthy democracy.”  How toothless.

But — well, remember the priest who was removed from his assignment after burning a rainbow-banner that had hung in the church when it was operated as a “gay church”, and after protests from activists?  (Yeah, I tried to find an update on that; the last reports at the time say he was “in hiding” and it pretty much looks like, believing he would be persecuted by Cupich goons, real or imagined, just left and could well be working at a McDonalds in Oklahoma for all we know.)

So why does the Archdiocese continue to tolerate this situation?  Is it simply that they don’t want to lose parishioners who may or may not actually be Catholic in belief so much as, let’s say, Pflegerian?   Are successive cardinals simply cowardly?  Or was the armistice of 2011 accompanied by a negotiated promise of non-intervention?


After writing this, I let the May 5 sermon linked above continue to play.  It’s very much a self-esteem build, not much different from Osteen, so far as I can tell, in terms of the focus on how God wants the best for you, how great each of us are and how destined we are for success and happiness and we just need to believe it, etc.  And then at the 56/57 minute mark, there’s this:

But you gotta claim your territory.  You have to learn how to speak your destiny.  There’s power in the tongue.  You gotta learn how to claim it!  Claim your house!  Claim your car!  And I’m not talking about fantasy Disneyland claiming.  Claim not only what you’re gonna have but how you’re gonna get it.

“Well, young person, what you wanna be when you grow up?”  “Rich.”  “How you gonna do it?” “I don’t know but I’m gonna be rich.”  “No, you stupid.  You gotta know how, I’m gonna go to school, get an education, be a lawyer, be a doctor, I wanna be a this, I wanna be that.”

We gotta learn how to speak it and claim it.  If you want it, you gotta claim your territory. Own it, own your future.  Claim your marriage.  Claim its success. Claim it’s gonna be blessed. Claim that your children are gonna be safe.  Claim that your family is gonna be prosperous.

Folks, Pfleger may not be calling for his listeners to sow seeds by making donations.  He may not be asking for them to buy him jets so he can globe-trot for his ministry.  But it’s my understanding that the notion of “claiming” what you want is classic Prosperity Gospel teaching.

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