Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Keep the Pulpit Nonpartisan

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Keep the Pulpit Nonpartisan

Article excerpt

By almost any measure, Chicago's Fr. Michael Pfleger has had a remarkable ministry. Pastor of St. Sabina Church on the city's South Side since 1981, Pfleger has led the predominantly black congregation to financial security, including an expanded and enviable school, and in a transformation of the neighborhood. The parish has successfully taken on liquor stores that sold booze to youngsters; shut down porn shops and stores that sell drug paraphernalia; campaigned to restrict billboards pushing the sale of cigarettes and liquor. At one point, Pfleger and parishioners conducted Friday night anti-gang and anti-drug marches around the neighborhood during the spring and summer.

That his position of leadership could crumble under the weight of a few imprudent lines of a guest sermon suggests much about the YouTube age in which we live, our political culture and the vulnerability of the church when our leaders become public partisan.

Pfleger, who has apologized for mocking Sen. Hillary Clinton during a guest sermon at Sen. Barack Obama's former church in Chicago, has reportedly agreed to take a temporary leave as pastor. However the church politics plays out in this instance, we agree with Chicago Cardinal Francis George's simple and direct instruction: "The Catholic church does not endorse political candidates. Consequently, while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning."

Pfleger, in those comments that now have famously played repeatedly on TV talk and news shows, was not only partisan, he was also racist and sexist, not to mention downright juvenile in his mocking ridicule of Sen. Clinton.

Just as the YouTube-fueled frenzy over Pfleger's comments was subsiding, another video began making the rounds, this time of a well-known New York monsignor, Jim Lisante, mocking Democratic candidate Obama and endorsing Sen. …

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