Less than a week after the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago put Father Pfleger on a sort of administrative leave where he was expected to vacate the premises of Saint Sabina’s for a time, it has been announced he will be returning and fully re-instated by the coming weekend. The disciplinary actions was less than two weeks. So it goes. I don’t wish to appear to be second-guessing the venerable Cardinal Archbishop.
I can’t help but wonder how it came to be the case that the Archdiocese has allowed Pflegar to be a pastor for 35 years… A time where he has parlayed his influence and personal style into creating Saint Sabina’s into his very own fiefdom.
I can’t help but wonder if Pfleger’s overly-long stay which allowed this sort of fiefdom isn’t a sort of hat-tip to a backhanded institutional racism. “How so, Simple?” you ask?
Well it rather seems that at any number of levels the shepherds of Chicago – unable or unwilling to challenge a man who has entrenched himself in race-baiting and demagoguery – have failed to reign the man in. Why? I can’t help but suspect that it is based on a perhaps unrealized sense of paternalism… that the Black Catholics of Chicago are assumed to want this, so they get what they want, not what they need. Why rock the boat and replace a loose cannon who has developed such a cult or personality, that his own parish website (when he was disciplined) was used as an organ to advocate people to contact the cardinal to reverse his decision?
These Catholics deserve better, far better. The real implicit racism has been allowing the demagoguery, cult of personality and clowning around to go unabated and largely uncorrected at the expense of obedience and the cultivation of Catholic life. Is that a hat tip to the notion that this foolishness “is good enough for those people”? Fear of rocking the boat?
The longer he goes unchecked, the closer he gets to the sad, sad situation of “Archbishop” George Stallings – a man given such latitude that he created a schismatic sect in Washington, D.C. after years of having a carte blanche reign given his popularity among the Black Catholics he served. Barring such open institutional schism, one has to wonder what effect will be had if and when the day comes that Father Pfleger retires (or is called home) and the new pastor sent just doesn’t live up to the cult-of-personality expectations that those Pfleger served have come to expect. What then happens? What comes first, the Catholic faith, or the idealization of a particular priest? When the new pastor of Saint Sabina’s doesn’t provide the same quality of demagoguery or cleave to the wide latitude of liturgical expression that Lord Pfleger does, how many, conditioned to expect and demand antics over praxis, will simply move on to a non-Catholic community anyway?