by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World – Scholarship in Action
If there were ever a human being who best embodied the words “What would Jesus do?” it would be Father Michael Pfleger out of Chicago. Father Pfleger has put it on the line for 30 years as the head of the St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in the south side of Chicago. The church is predominantly black, but Father Pfleger connects with his parishioners as if they were his family.
He has fought the powers that be without concern for the professional consequences. He has stood up for the poor in ways that almost no public or political figure ever has. He has fought for the dying youth of Chicago in ways that have put his own life in jeopardy. He stands up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and that is what makes him the ultimate spiritual patriot.
You can imagine my disappointment to find out that Father Pfleger was suspended recently by Cardinal Francis George for refusing to accept Georges’s request to transfer to a Catholic High School near his church. Father Pfleger has been with St. Sabina for 30 years and said he would rather leave the church than to leave St. Sabina. The decision by George was likely a political one, for the church has been working to get rid of their most celebrated pastor for years.
In response to Father Pfleger’s decision not to leave, George wrote, "If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish."
As a person who has also dealt with administrators who care more about maintaining bureaucratic power than actually doing the right thing, I fully understand what my brother Michael Pfleger is going through. I remember my battles with the pseudo-intellectuals I’ve had to deal with at Syracuse University, who’ve forgotten that scholarship is meaningless when hiding it away in a tower that is inaccessible to 98% of the population.
Father Pfleger, in the spirit of Jesus Christ himself, is so connected to the true essence of God that he is unable to fit within the rigid and myopic structural confines of anyone’s church. The Catholic Church and Cardinal George should all be ashamed, for suspending a man like Father Pfleger is truly in violation of the spirit of the higher power. I am incredibly disappointed with their decision.