Cardinal George Suspends Priest

“This Conflict Is Not Between You And Me;
It’s Between You And The Church”

This is Cardinal’s George letter to Fr. Michael Pfleger.  Please pray that Father discerns to be true to the Catholic Church.  Emphasis added.


Reverend Michael L. Pfleger
Pastor Saint Sabina Catholic Church
1210 W. 78th Place
Chicago, IL 60620

Dear Father Pfleger:

Several times in recent years you have told me that you do not want to remain as Pastor of Saint Sabina Parish for the length of your priestly ministry in the Church. Each time we discussed the subject, it was clear that there was no other assignment that would make equally good use of your talents in ministry and that it would also be difficult to find another pastor to take up your ministry at Saint Sabina’s with comparable fervor.

Some months ago, however, an opening at Leo High School for the presidency of a fine school very important for the mission of the Church 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 causes dear to you: education in the African American community, control of gun violence, service to the poor in the name of Christ. As you know, this was an honest offer, not driven by pressure from any group but by a pastoral need in the Archdiocese. You promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it.

Your written response to me after our preliminary conversation left open some possibility of your serving at Leo, and I continued discussions with those who are involved in priest transfers in the Archdiocese: the Priests’ Placement Board, the Vicars for Priests, the Episcopal Vicar. The process would have necessarily involved conversations with Leo to clarify the position of President and see if you could meet their expectations, with the parishioners of Saint Sabina’s to speak about their pastoral needs, and with priests who might be candidates to take your place as pastor, should that become necessary.

Even as these conversations began or were being planned, 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. In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another according to the policies in place for the last forty years.

That process has now been short-circuited by your remarks on national radio and in local newspapers that you will leave the Catholic Church if you are told to accept an assignment other than as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish. If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish. A Catholic priest’s inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop. Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church. Bishops are held responsible for their priests on the assumption that priests obey them. I have consistently supported your work for social justice and admired your passion for ministry. Many love and admire you because of your dedication to your people. Now, however, I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.

With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended. The official rescript will follow, but this suspension permits you to retain the office of pastor while temporarily without permission to function. During this time, Father Thulani Magwaza, who is well known to the people of Saint Sabina’s as your Associate Pastor, will be administrator of the parish, and Father Andrew Smith, a Chicago African-American priest currently at Saint Ailbe Parish, will assist him.

Father Pfleger, I deeply regret that your public remarks have brought you to a moment of crisis that I pray will quickly pass. This conflict is not between you and me; it’s between you and the Church that ordained you a priest, between you and the faith that introduced you to Christ and gives you the right to preach and pastor in his name. If you now formally leave the Catholic Church and her priesthood, it’s your choice and no one else’s. You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements. To avoid misrepresentation and manipulation on anyone’s part, this letter will be released to the parish, which is to publish it in its entirety, and to the media after it has been delivered to you.

You remain in my prayers, and I hope I remain in yours.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. Archbishop of Chicago


What are your thoughts?  Please post a comment.

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23 comments to Cardinal George Suspends Priest

  • Bruce

    Fr Pfleger could purchase the ranch next to Father Corapi in Montana, it’s time to leave Chicago.

    • Savio

      Dear Bruce,

      It is not proper for us to comment in this manner. We are all sinners and we all have our past (assuming that we have now reformed). Most of us do not conform to Divine Will, but are quick to castigate or point accusing fingers at others. In these modern times most of humankind is overwhelmed by the world & all it entails. In doing so we have steadily severed our links with GOD Almighty – our Creator, Savior & Redeemer.

      All these evil things (scandals, rebellion, disrespect, disobedience to our superiors etc.) happen when we distance ourselves from GOD and come under the influence of the evil one (who very smartly pulls the rug from under our feet without we realising it).

      Whenever we hear or are aware of such things particularly involving priests & nuns, we ought to immediately lift them up to GOD in prayer (continue praying for their conversion/return to the right path) & GOD will do the needful in HIS own time. GOD has unlimited patience. Remember, Vocation is a call from GOD to the individual, to come & work in HIS vineyard. It is another thing altogether, if we stray on our own from the right path . This largely happens when we neglect prayer. The priests & nuns are required to spend a considerable amount of time in prayer to ward off the devil.

      Unfortunately, this does not happen anymore & that is why there is so much of scandal among the priests & nuns. The devil convinces them (sadly many get fooled & carried away) that they are better off doing social service / work, as this is more pleasing & acceptable to GOD. At the end of the day, they are too tired / exhausted to pray & they excuse / console themselves saying GOD will understand & overlook their failure to pray. What they fail to realise is, that it is precisely this that the devil wants them to do i.e. refrain from prayer, because prayer is the only efficacious & powerful weapon that we have, to keep the devil at bay.

      The devil focuses primarily on priests & nuns, because they are given the responsibility by GOD to lead & guide the flock entrusted to their care, along the right path & to greater spirituality and closeness to GOD.

      Let us pray daily for all the priests, nuns, bishops etc. because they are constantly under severe pressure from the devil, more than us lay people.

      GOD Bless you.

  • joe

    I say this: when it is time to leave dysfunctional infrastructues then…shake the dust off, get around people of light and love. Emphatically rejoice because Jesus came to save,heal,and deliver. I too think it is junior high ish of the cardinal to post ,publish and push values. I do not know the full story not the issues surrounding this ordained personal story is this: a lack of care theedited, I cut myself free from catholic culture that spiritually abuse others.

  • Teresa

    I am hoping………..and more accurately PRAYING that this time Cardinal George sticks to his guns. This Priest has caused scandal after scandal on the public stage for YEARS. I know…..I belong to the Chicago Archdiocese. I know it will be very painful for the Parishioners of St. Sabina, however, Fr. Pfleger has publically railed against the Church on more than one occassion, not to mention publically criticizing the Church’s stance on women priests and just about all the other liberal viewpoints. It has truly reached the point of no return. Pray for Fr. Pfleger, and the people of St. Sabina…..Pray for Cardinal George.

  • Bob Withrow

    Cardinal George is a wise and loving shepherd. He was my bishop when he was Archbishop of Portland. Unfortunately his time here was way too short.

    A priest really has a couple of choices, either honor his promises of obedience and celebacy or ask to be released from those promises and seek the lay state. He certainly does not take his disagreements to the public forum and especially does not misrepresent a situation.

    It seems to me that Cardinal George was attempting to meet Fr. Pfleger’s demands and continue to meet the needs of the archdiocesan community. Cardinal George has taken the only action he can by suspending Fr. Pfleger. Even given the priest shortage in the Chicago Archdiocese, the Aechdiocese does not need a priest who manufactures news, misrepresents the Archdiocese, publically refuses to obey his Archbishop, and, apparently for his own ego, stirs up racial issues for their own sake rather than focusing on those issues as an effective ministry of the church.

    I’m pretty liberal in some things that would drive an ordinary mad. I am, however squarely in the right to life camp and everything that means including abolishing the death penality. As for abortion,I believe there are a couple of issues we need to clarify.

    Most people of good will would say that killing a child is murder. A mother has no right to kill a child because a child is the result of rape, is inconvient, etc. We current use terms like “pro choice” of “pro life” to define our positions. I think the disussion should be around when the fetus becomes a human being. At birth? By the end of the first trimester? Or somewhere in between? We believe the fetus becomes fully human at the moment of conception. The “pro choice” people cannot even answer that question so they fall back on the woman’s right to choose. We need to keep focused on when a fetus becomes human, both politically and legally.

    It’s now been 30 years since Roe v. Wade and the harvest of murdered fetus’ continues. We can debate the issue endlessly, picket abortion clinics, and push unwilling legislators to do something they don’t wqant to do. None of this has done any good for the past 30 years and I don’t expect it to do any good for the next 30 years.

    We might be more successful if we focus our money and our time on front loading services for those who would otherwise get an abortion.

    I have a vision of community based non-judgmental family centers where potential moms can obtain pre-intercourse information, be assigned a social worker who can help her through her pregnancy,encourage her to carry the child to term, makes sure she access all the information and resources she needs, work with the local child support agency, and finally arrange for a speedy and inexpensive adoption for her child.

    There are plenty of folks wanting to adopt children but often the cost is too high and the process is too long and arduous.

  • Elaine Steffek

    I find it truly amazing what people think they know about a situation, when in fact they are clueless. I know Michael Pfleger.
    I know St Sabina. I know the people and the neighborhood he serves. This is not a black and white issue. Trust me, there are
    NO priests in line to take over the ministry in that community.
    It is a hell of a job. But Michael Pfleger has been a godsend
    and transformed a dying parish into the most vibrant and active
    African American parish in the entire archdiocese, if not the country. Have any of you even bothered to look at the website for St Sabina? If that parish is not doing the Lord’s work I don’t know who is. Have any of you seen the letter that Fr Mike wrote to Cardinal George? How about the letter to the Cardinal from 14 other area priests in support of him? I didn’t think so.
    Maybe you can just read this:


    Hello Elaine,

    My heart goes out to you during this heavy cross that you and St. Sabina Parish are going through. I can only imagine how hard of a situation this truly is. Thank you for your comments.

    I was wondering if you, as a Fr. Pfleger supporter, could inform us what Father’s real stance is on women priests? Do you have the letter Father wrote to Cardinal George? Or the other letter of the 14 priests? Thanks!

    May God bless you,
    John Quinn

  • John C. Baal

    Cardinal George is a moral coward for not standing up against Pfleger a long time ago,especially Pfleger’s support for abortion politicians. Courageous Priests web site is just as bad with respect to this situation(Phleger/George).Talk is cheap.I will not be wasting my time visiting this web site anytime soon and I definitely recommend my friends do like wise. Go to Mass, say the Rosary,and Divine Mercy daily and let the fakers play with their computers.


    Dear Mr. Baal,

    May I make a request? When you go to Mass, say the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy would you do me the honor of including me, the faker, in your prayers. I truly need the prayers of passionate people like yourself.

    May God bless you.

    John Quinn
    Courageous Priest

  • Clem

    Cardinal George made the right call this one. Father Pfleger was on his way to becoming a loose cannon and needed to be reigned in. By and large Cardinal George is doing a good job. He had big shoes to fill in replacing Cardinal Bernadin, probably the greatest cardinal in the history of the Chicago church.

  • Bill

    Why did Cardinal George use red ink?


    Sorry for the confusion Bill. He did didn’t, I did.

  • From an email subscriber:

    I believe that Cardinal George is doing the right thing. I’m sure this has to be a difficult time for him. I pray that God will send him a special blessing for his courage in speaking up so strongly for our beautiful church.

  • From an email subscriber:

    Cardinal George holds a very high place of honor in my understanding.
    Not knowing anything personally regarding said priest, trusting completely in the Cardinal, I’m sure that he has written truthfully and as kindly as he could
    in the circumstances. This situation is painful to all concerned. My prayers are for an amicable solving of this problem, quickly and resolutely.
    Kathryn A.

  • From an email subscriber:

    I do not know either Cardinal George or Fr. Phleger. Therefore, I cannot comment on the comments made in the letter. However, I do think it is in poor taste to send this to everyone as you have. It is one thing to “educate” the parishoners at St. Sabina’s Parish about what is going on, although I am not even sure that they need this level of education. It is quite another thing to have it going to people around the world who would otherwise have never even heard of the squabble, much less have been affected by it. Even with the high tone of the letter, it impresses me as being something very “junior high.”


  • From an email subscriber:

    Forgive me, I hardly it is courageous to take action that should have
    been taken against a man who has been an national embarrassment to the
    Church for a long time. The grounds are not even altogether what they
    should be.

    This man co-celebrated a service in a Protestant condeming our country
    as racist if we did not support this man who now occupys our White House
    and who did then and does now support the destruction of Innocent Human
    Life, and call homosexual relationships, marriage. The Protestant
    Minister, was on the record of cursing our country and stating 9/11 was
    our, “Chickens coming home to roost”.

    Many serious Catholics have come to believe there is nothing in either
    Church of civil/political entities in Chicago that is not corrupt,



  • From an email subscriber:

    Thank You Cardinal its about time .

  • From an email subscriber:

    There are a lot more priests out there that should be suspended. Bishops could start using some of the traditional priests which the bishop over my dioceses refuses to allow any priests from the Fraternity of St Peters in and still says that there is a shortage of priests.

  • From an email subscriber:

    The only thing one could say here is… If it is no longer in the heart of a Priest to be a worker of God, and bring the holy mass to others with love then it is best to let one go because God is no longer in his heart. If God is no longer in his heart then the holy spirit is not leading him. I will pray for all priests satin is growing stronger and trying to bring down Marys Sons.

  • From an email subscriber:

    It’s about time! This should have happened long ago. He’s been dragging the church through the ditch for years.

  • From an email subscriber:

    Dear Courageous Priest,
    I can hardly believe my eyes! How could Cardinal George accept the scandalous way that man speaks? How could he even keep him around? I do not understand it. Something is very wrong if there is not a way to limit that kind of priest. Yes, he is enthusiastic, to a point of lunacy. And his views are anything but loving, he promotes hatred. Our poor church. I wondered why he was still around…or was ever permitted to scandalize people. He was a “show” heaping notice on himself, instead of Christ. I am embarrassed for the church and for the Cardinal.
    Jesus, accept, at least, this apology. There are some of us who do love you and honor you and your true Church.

  • Kudos to Cardinal George. Another Big Backboned Bishop!

  • DTB

    Amen I say to you. I have long seen priests like Father Pfleger who are lost and do not teach the truth in Word or Deed and believe that they are doing good. I pray he returns to the sacred truths of the church and my sincere thanks to Cardinal George for his humility in seeing the truth and being able to profess it. Preach on.

  • Michelle

    While Fr. Pfleger’s actions are disturbing and saddening, I’m glad Cardinal George replied with firmness and clarity. Of course, it’s less than ideal to leave Fr. Pfleger’s history unaddressed, but maybe sticking to the one issue will prevent Fr. Pfleger from looking like a victim. Either way, we need to pray for the graces of our risen Lord on this situation. Thanks for posting this!



    I personally believe this was the Cardinal’s purpose. I couldn’t agree with you any more.

    Under Our Lady’s Mantle

    John Quinn

    P.S. Many will disagree with the way he handled a situation that has no true winners. May the Truth prevail.

  • Renee

    I completely agree and support Cardinal George on this matter and think his letter was perfectly written, concise, and full of relevant and ‘spot on’ points. Anyone who professes to be a consecrated religious makes a commitment to a life serving God and, in doing so, pledges obedience to his/her superiors. To not be so is sinful and indicates the priest is not dedicated to the Catholic Church and her teachings.

  • My thoughts? Disappointed.

    Father Pfleger’s history has been profoundly scandalous. The true teachings of Holy Mother Church have been obscured from his parish and the Church harmed much wider then just his parish or even his archdiocese.

    This long and disturbing history is not addressed. To remedy the damage already done, acknowledging it fully must be the first step.

    If I were Father Pfleger, his parish, or any other disobedient priest anywhere — I would see this as no less than tolerance of past actions and statements — other than the row on the reassignment discussion at hand. The issue is so much larger than that.

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