The Catholic blogosphere is all over the brief “leave” of Father Michael Pfleger and his return to ministry at his parish next Monday. I’ve noted a petition site to oust him “permanently,” and a lot of angry rhetoric directed toward his bishop, Cardinal George.
There’s so much commentary fodder here. Where to start?
Commenter Terry at InsideCatholic had a great remark:
Cardinal George did not just become Archbishop of Chicago. Faced with this very publicly difficult priest with an obvious cult of personality built up, he should have nurtured a relationship with him from the beginning, one based on honest assessments of the strength of his ministry and the flaws of it. Dine with the guy once a month – have good conversation, not mindless “affirmation” of his ministry.
This exposes a big part of the problem. Like many archdioceses, Chicago is too unwieldy in size for this to happen. Once a month meals would mean ninety priests, maximum, and that means no receptions or other sorts of meals for the archbishop.
I don’t know that bishops like Cardinal George avoid problems, but when your plate is too full, it’s not hard to imagine a busy bishop wishing challenges would just disappear.
We’ve talked about this suggestion here before: no diocese should be too large for a bishop to visit each parish for a few days every year. Thirty to fifty parishes would seem to be about right.
The charismatic priest is a problem for the Church, and more specifically for his parish. It’s great to work for a talented man, and bask in the glow. But the shadow side of that can really feed the ego of the pastor. If Father Pfleger left Saint Sabina’s permanently, do you think all the good things he began would continue? If you can say no, then I don’t think you can call the man’s ministry a success. When Jesus gave his example, it wasn’t about him; it was about those who would be sent to serve in his name. Ministry is about modeling Christ, not about being a new messiah for others.
The focus on Pfleger, especially in the insults directed at him and his bishop, are worse than the worst interpretation of the charismatic pastor. Catholics embarrass themselves (if not create their own scandal) focusing on the man’s missteps. It’s clear from browsing a few St Blog’s commentariats that the line has been crossed. It’s not pretty. And people shouldn’t kid themselves: there’s nothing faithful, orthodox, or charitable about much of what is being written.
Do you think Obama and McCain are going to get chummy with organized religion this Fall? I don’t see it. I don’t think they’ll dare.