(Caution -very long but no new post until next Tuesday)
Transcript of Smiley & West radio program April 8, 2011.
Smiley & West featuring Father Michael Pfleger
Smiley: From PRI, Public Radio International in Los Angeles, I’m Tavis Smiley.
West: And in Princeton I’m Cornel West and this is Smiley & West.
Fr. Pfleger: The Catholic church has somehow not moved with the times. It’s the same truth, the same gospel, the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow, but you cannot reach an iPod congregation with an 8-track service. We’ve got to reach people where they are at.
Smiley: This week Father Michael Pfleger, Chicago’s trailblazing and controversial priest who is now the target of the NRA.
West: Plus we’ll remember my dear brother, one of the great intellectual freedom fighters of our time, Manny Marable.
Smiley: And this week a listener takes us to task for our comments, kind comments about Urban Prep Academy, the Chicago high school sending 100 percent of its graduating class to college. How could we be in trouble for that? We’ll find out. It’s all this hour on Smiley & West after the news.
Smiley: From PRI, Public Radio International in Los Angeles, I’m Tavis Smiley.
West: And in Princeton I’m Cornel West and this is Smiley & West.
Smiley: Glad we got you for a rare day in Princeton this week, Doc. You were all over the place this week. Howard University this past Sunday, a national teach-in with Frances Fox Piven in New York on Tuesday. How was the teach-in, by the way?
West: Oh, it was wonderful. Two hundred twenty-seven colleges and universities my brother, trying to keep alive the democratic awakening and trying to call into question the fact that this deficit, this austerity is in many ways manufactured, which is to say that if in fact the well to do were paying their taxes we would have sources of revenues, we wouldn’t be pushed into a corner. So you end up with the right wing Republican Party and the centrist right Democratic Party defining a terrain that we need not be on as poor people and working people continue to suffer.
Smiley: You get a sense given this teach-in that there is an interest, a new awakening, so to speak, or an angst, you tell me what you sense on the part of students these days given the state of our country right now.
West: Well I think students are hungry. We had 700 students at UMass, Amherst, they had gatherings at Manhattan College, they’re at UC Berkeley. They were all over the country. Morgan State University, the black brothers and sisters there. It was a beautiful thing to have so many young people on fire. They had a 2 hour meeting after Sister Frances Fox Piven and myself and Richard Trumka and other marvelous speakers spoke in New York.
But they had 2 hour local gatherings in order to keep alive the local activism in the face of this corporate greed and corporate assault on poor and working people, my brother.
Smiley: This hour we are going to talk with a long time friend of ours, both yours and mine, Father Michael Pfleger out of St. Sabina’s in Chicago. How would you describe Father Pfleger?
West: Pfleger is one of the great prophetic voices of our time. He is a white brother who fell in love with poor and working people. He fell in love with black people. He has been bearing witness for 30 years on the chocolate side of Chicago. He’s well know throughout the country for building on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., my brother.
Smiley: Unlike most priests who move around every so many years, he has been at St. Sabina’s for 30 years now. There’s some controversy about whether or not he’ll be there much longer. But more importantly… or as importantly I should say, he’s become the target of the NRA. We’ll explain all of this and you’ll get a chance to meet Father Michael Pfleger later in today’s program. [big snip]
INTERVIEW OF FATHER MICHAEL PFLEGER
[At this point, I'm not going to highlight anything in red. 1.I don't want to encourage Pfleger's Jesus complex. 2. I would make all of it red so read closely.]
Smiley: From PRI, Public Radio International in Los Angeles, I’m Tavis Smiley.
West: And I’m Cornel West and this is Smiley & West. And we have a very special moment with a very special person. He is our dear brother, one of the great prophetic figures and courageous priests, pastors, ministers of our time, so deeply rooted in the soil of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m talking about the one and only Father Michael Pfleger joining us from his parish, St. Sabina’s on Chicago’s south side with poverty and dignity there. He’s been serving for 30 years.
Brother Pfleger, Father Pfleger, how you doing?
Fr. Pfleger: My dear brothers, how are you doing? I’m great talking to the two of you, believe me.
Smiley: Let me start with this new book that I enjoyed reading about your life and work over these 30 years. The book is called Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight For Social Justice. Unpack those first two words for me and why you signed off on that, radical disciple.
Fr. Pfleger: Well I think two things. One is obviously the word disciple, that I think we have a lot of believers in churches but we don’t have many disciples. Believers are people that have a place in the Kingdom of God, but the last thing Jesus said is go make disciples.
Disciples, I believe, are the ones who have a responsibility of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth every single day where they’re at.
Radical is unfortunately, I think we live in a day where the institution of religion has become so mainstream and is now teaching people how to live well in Pharaoh’s house, rather than say let my people go. And the problem seems to be that now anything between Calvary and Bethlehem that Jesus did is looking at radical. It’s now radical to think people should have three meals a day. It’s radical to think people should have a job to take themselves. It’s radical to think people should have a place to sleep.
It’s unfortunate, but that has become radical in the mainstream religion in 2011.
Smiley: Since this is radio and people can’t see you let me just set the stage. You happen to be the overseer of a huge church on the south side of Chicago, a church that is primarily African American. You happen to be a white American. And for those who don’t understand how that happened or how you could stay at this place for 30 years, and not just stay, but are beloved any time. And it seems to happen on a cycle every 3 years they decide they want to move you and all hell, pardon the phrase, breaks lose in Chicago. Not just on the south side. The Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune.
You heard our caller earlier, Doc, that Sister Megan doesn’t even go to St. Sabina’s but she says I know Father Pfleger’s work. He’s doing great work. They ought to leave him at St. Sabina. Everybody in Chicago goes apoplectic every 3 years when they try to move you out. So how does a white brother end up at St. Sabina’s and end up staying for 30 years.
Fr. Pfleger: Well you know my seminary training was on the west side of Chicago. It was there that I not only learned about community and church but I learned about organization from the Black Panthers, who used to meet in our church basement. And there realized that the people who are doing most of service on the west side of Chicago was not the church but it was the Black Panthers and their breakfast programs and the projects. And how they were having programs for kids after school every single day. They really taught me about serving the community.
After I got ordained in ’75, I asked then, I wanted to come to an African American church on the south side. When I got here they told me the church was going to close in about 3 years. In 1981 is actually when I became pastor. The previous pastor here had died. The people here asked me to be president. We had about 80 people in the church then.
We got rid of bingo, got rid of Las Vegas night and got rid of all those things I think were taking time up that had nothing to do with Jesus or the bible or anything about people. And the first thing I did was stop all of them and say we’re going to try to do it by serving people and serving God. I lost 30 more of the 80 people in the next couple of months. It was not a sign of hope and it was not a sign of life. But I said I must believe there is a God somewhere over my head. And eventually people began to come.
And today we are… and this is what the problem to me is with the archdiocese, we are the only African American church in the diocese that is financially independent. We have not gotten one penny from them since 1989. We are the largest African American Catholic church in the diocese and one of the top five largest in the country.
We run an employment center, social service center, a senior building, two foster homes, a youth center and a retreat center. And somehow there’s a problem, it seems with that. And I think it’s because of the strength of here it is, an African American church and community that has a voice in Chicago and that is recognized in Chicago as a voice for justice.
I think that’s part of the problem. But also what I’ve been told in the last couple of weeks is that there was two main groups that seemingly have put a big push on to get rid of me in the last year. And that is the right wing conservative Catholics. And that is also the NRA, who said I’ve been much too vocal about assault weapons and much too vocal about guns being registered and being accountable to gun owners.
All that combined and I guess O’Connor didn’t have anything to do one morning and decided he wanted to get rid of me again.
West: Good God. But you mean to tell me the National Rifle Association can have that kind of impact on churches? What has that got to do with Jesus? What has it got to do with him?
Fr. Pfleger: They have that kind of impact in the White House and I guess they have that kind of impact in the church house.
West: But you would think the White House ought to be a little different. They’re running the empire and the democratic experiment. The church is about Jesus, it’s about love, it’s about sacrifice, finding joy and serve it to the least of these echoes of the 25th chapter of Matthew that mean so much to you.
I can tell you this, my brother, I made my call to the board. I made my call to the cardinal. And I want to do all I can, because each year I get a chance…
Fr. Pfleger: What is Dr. West doing calling the cardinal?
West: I’m not used to calling cardinals, you know that now. I’m holy God Baptist. But I love you brother, you know that, though.
Fr. Pfleger: I appreciate it, man.
West: We are together. We have such a magnificent time. Just to see the love in action. I think Brother Tavis’ point about being a loving white brother in a loving black community and loving black church you would think that that ought to be a primary focus. People ought to put a limelight on that in the country. But lo and behold, it’s easy to get demonized. It’s easy to get trashed in that way.
Yet you keep that love flowing.
Fr. Pfleger: I think also, Dr. West and Tavis, I think both of you have seen this in your own lives and your own journey, is that there is a move unfortunately not just in America, but there is a move within the institution called church to shut up the prophetic voice. They want to stop at being challenged. They want to blend in.
But you look back at the New Testament and the Acts of the Apostles, that was a dangerous church. And I think it’s time to have a dangerous church again in society that calls society to task and seeks truth and seeks justice.
Smiley: Let me play devil’s advocate, Father Pfleger, for just a second. And you don’t really need me to play this because you have a cardinal who does it rather well.
Fr. Pfleger: Very well.
Smiley: Let me just play devil’s advocate for just a second.
West: I’m glad you said devil’s advocate rather than devil, because we love everybody, cardinals too.
Smiley: Exactly, cardinals too. If you have done all this wonderful work at St. Sabina’s over 30 years why not move Father Pfleger someplace else and let him do that work, let him be that prophetic voice someplace else and have a number of St. Sabina’s over Chicago as opposed to just one?
Fr. Pfleger: Tavis and Dr. West, I’ve been asking for ages. I said people come here from all over the country to study St. Sabina’s, learn about St. Sabina, to train under St. Sabina, except in Chicago. In 30 years here not once have I ever been called in and said bring in some of your leadership. Tell us what works. Tell us how you’re successful. Tell us how you’re doing this.
We have never… in fact, I’m banned from going to churches and in many of the places of Chicago archdioceses to preach. They invited me to speak for a youth conference of thousands of youths and the cardinal said no, we don’t want him.
St. Xavier University asked me to come and be the theologian in residence there. He said I don’t think that’s a good idea. He’s too liberal. He’s too progressive.
In fact, instead of duplicating it they want to squash it. And what they really want to do I believe is to take St. Sabina back to a 1950s church and bring back… take off this progressive thought, these people that speak for themselves and speak up for themselves. They want people to just go sit down in the pew and do what you’re told. Well, I got news for them, whether Mike Pfleger is here or not, that ain’t gonna happen in St. Sabina. Because people here are a different people.
West: No, I hear ya, I hear ya. All three of us know that for Jesus the only static place in the world was a manger and a cross.
Fr. Pfleger: That’s right. That’s right.
West: When you really love people, especially love poor and working people it pits you against the world. You’re in the world but not of the world. Therefore, even those magnificent 30 years that you have put in as the prophetic disciple of Jesus, each year was a tenuous one because you didn’t know whether you were going to be there or not. This is another one.
Fr. Pfleger: I always keep a suitcase in the room.
West: No, but that’s Christian-like, because in the end this world is not our home. We’re passing through.
Fr. Pfleger: That’s right.
West: We’re pilgrims, we’re bearing witness. We’re just keeping the love alive. We’re keeping the justice alive.
But where does it look at the moment? When will the decision be made? What can be done to support you best other than the prayers that many of us have for you?
Fr. Pfleger: Certainly the prayers, I certainly appreciate any calls or letters to the Archdiocese of Chicago and to the cardinal. But where it is right now, the cardinal called me and told me he wanted to make me president of a high school that is literally dying. And I would have no power to do anything but sit there and raise money. I said that’s not my passion, that’s not my gift.
I’m willing to take the high school up under St. Sabina and give me the permission to then hire a new principal. It’s an African American male high school that has never ever had an African American male leadership. I said that’s what you need in there. And that’s what you need to do.
The second thing now it seems… and he said he wanted to put another priest in here. Well I find out the other priests didn’t want to come here. And that’s the other issue that nobody’s talking about. They’ve asked several priests over the years to come here and no priest wants to come. They say no, you work too hard at St. Sabina. And the people are too demanding at St. Sabina.
So I’m saying come on, take this over. Here you go.
West: They love Jesus too much.
Fr. Pfleger: Those people will sit and tell you what they think at St. Sabina.
West: Oh, no, indeed, indeed.
Fr. Pfleger: Now Tavis and Dr. West, they’ve told me that now they’re going to wait about a month and try to make their move in a month. And nobody knows what that move is going to be. So now I’m in this kind of a limbo stage wondering what’s supposed to happen.
It got to the point I was waking up every morning wondering is this the day I’m going to get the call. I’m not giving that any more energy. I refuse to give that any more power. I’m waking up in the morning, working my butt off all day long, serving the people in this community and continue to speak. And continue to speak what I believe. I’m going to continue to stand for the truth that is important to me and that is true to the gospel. And that’s ultimately what I have to be judged by.
Smiley: Let me expand our conversation, Father Pfleger, beyond Chicago politics inside the Catholic Church and ask a broader question since we’re talking around it but not really at it. Assess for me as a Catholic priest the state of the Catholic Church. There always is conversation, of course, from the Vatican on down and all kinds of media outlets who are always wrestling with this question. But as you see it, what is the state of the Catholic Church?
Fr. Pfleger: I think it’s in a sad state. And I say that only because I think here in the states in particular…
Smiley: You can’t say that, you’re a Catholic priest, Father Pfleger.
Fr. Pfleger: That’s why I can say that. I know for a fact it’s in a sad state.
West: He’s got to tell the truth there. He’s speaking out of love. He’s speaking out of love now.
Fr. Pfleger: Exactly. And I love this church and I want this church to not only be right and do right, I want it to survive and be successful. But I want it to be successful by being true to that for which it calls itself to be.
Dr. Gardner Taylor said it best. I don’t care what you do, just stop doing it in the name of Jesus if it ain’t Jesus’ stuff. That’s the reality. And the arrogance that has continued to exist in the church that it does not have to really serve its people and that it’s above the law, it is above truth and makes its own rules and its own laws, I think that its danger has become that it has become its own golden calf. And that’s why I continue to challenge it.
I continue to get in trouble because I believe we ought to be talking about married priests, we ought to be talking about women priests. And we ought to open up our eyes to where we came from instead of where we’re now at in the Catholic Church worldwide.
I think the other thing, you go around America, the truth of the matter is in most of your churches the average age is 55 to 65 years old. That ought to worry us that we are not drawing young people in our church. They’re leaving and going someplace else. And somebody ought to ask the question why are your numbers dwindling? Why is your age average way up there? Why are finances down?
It seems to me somebody ought to be asking those questions and saying if something is working anywhere in the country lets glean it and not destroy it.
Smiley: How much of the challenge the Catholic Church is facing has to do, you think, with church policy? You know where I’m going with this. There are all kinds of debates, again, every day, about whether the Catholic Church really does need to rethink some of its rules and practices and regulations and policies, some of which you just listed a moment ago.
You don’t have to walk down the entire list, but I’m just curious as to how much you think the challenge the church is facing, the Catholic Church, that is, has to do with this call for the church to rethink certain things?
Fr. Pfleger: I think that that’s a big part of it. I think the Catholic Church has somehow not moved with the times. It’s the same truth, the same gospel, the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. But you cannot reach an iPod congregation with an 8-track service. You can’t do that.
You’ve got to somehow understand we got to reach people where they are at. We’ve got meet our youth, we’ve got to embrace them. And some of the things, frankly, that we held onto that are not biblical we need to say, you know what, maybe we need to change some of these things.
I think that the church is stuck in a rut. And somehow that rut is seeing our destruction. And that rut has arrogance in it. That rut has just, let’s do it the way we’ve always done it. Well you do it the way you’ve always done it you get the same results you always got. And it’s time for the church, I think, to say how are we embracing? Be true to the gospel. I’m not asking, there’s no updated version of the bible.
Be true to the gospel. But your practices and your rules have to be updated to embrace the people who are hungry for truth and hungry for transformation.
West: That hunger and thirst cuts very deep. Now we know, of course, that you were a very, very close friend of President Obama. And it looks like in the eyes of many of us he threw you under the bus the way he through Reverend Jeremiah Wright under the bus, the way he through Sister Sherrod under the bus. And of course, Tavis and I have been under the bus for a long time. We don’t mind being there because Jesus must not bear the cross alone. We bear the cross and we keep moving.
How do you account for the shift in our dear brother Barack Obama, who indeed we love, but at the same time we’re going to tell the truth about that brother, too?
Fr. Pfleger: I love the brother so deeply. I said to somebody just yesterday, where is the man that I voted for? I feel like I’ve lost the man I voted for. I haven’t seen him in a long, long time. It’s sad, because I had a lot of hope and a lot of dreams and a lot of potential. And I think not just myself, but a whole lot of people put so much hope in him.
No question some unreal hope and some impossible hope. But some basic hope for some real change. And a different way of looking at the world. And although I think he’s a good man, he is not the man that I knew as U.S. Senator. He is not the man that I knew as a state senator. He’s not the man who I think ran a campaign and talked about things he wanted to do.
And I see him now sitting in the chair of the emperor and acting more like the emperor than the man who wanted to come in and change the whole empire.
West: One wonders what happened. When you talk about audacity of hope, that’s just not Brother Jeremiah Wright’s sermon, that comes out of a long tradition of struggle of people who have been insulated, Jim Crow, Jane Crow, spit on. That’s hope. That’s different than cheap optimism, of neo-liberalism, cheap optimism of interventions around the world. Cheap optimism of allowing the war machine to keep moving.
Is it that once you get inside that Oval Office, you get inside that golden cage that it’s difficult to keep that prophetic juice flowing and therefore you get incorporated and things get cold and the fire goes out? Is that something that is inevitable? Does power corrupt in that way no matter what color people are?
Fr. Pfleger: Sadly that is what it’s looking like, Dr. West. The saddest thing, I was at Howard University a couple weeks ago speaking. A student said to me, you know what, I’ve always wanted to go into politics and make a change through the art of politics. After watching what’s happened to Barack Obama I’ve chosen never to go into politics again because it has shown me that no matter who you say you are or what you believe in, when you walk into that political arena you become something that’s not yourself anymore.
I don’t know if it’s the power and the position. I don’t know if it’s the corruption and the people around him. But at the end of the day every man, woman has to take responsibility for themselves. So I can talk about all the arena, I can talk about the cabinet, but at the end of the day he has to look himself in the mirror. And I wonder how he feels about looking at himself in the mirror.
Here’s a man, in your book, you mentioned Audacity of Hope talked about we must not allow the gun lobbyists to guide how we act in terms of right things with gun laws in this country. He wrote that in Audacity of Hope. Now he’s living the absolute opposite. How do you justify that?
West: We got to pray for him.
Fr. Pfleger: He’s a different man.
West: We got to keep our focus on the suffering though, because the suffering is real.
Smiley: Yeah. I’m just listening here and wondering, Father Pfleger, how it is your prophetic and progressive voice notwithstanding, you pastor a church that is full of thousands of African Americans on the south side of Chicago where Obama was elected as a state senator, where he was a community organizer. His roots go deep on the south side of Chicago, right around the corner from St. Sabina. And you supported him when he very, very, very first ran for public office many, many years ago.
How do you pastor a church of African Americans on the south side of Chicago where Obama is from and has his roots and tell the truth about him to an African American Congregation that wanted the best for him and voted for him?
Fr. Pfleger: Initially I think it was a very delicate journey because everybody wanted the president to succeed. There’s no question about that. But I think what I had to keep reminding people here and I think where our congregation is now very strongly is that our allegiance and our submission can’t be to a man. It has to be to truth. That’s what we have to be aligned to.
When truth stands up to a man and challenges that man, it’s not about him it’s about the truth. And if you are not walking in that truth and if you’re not being true to that truth then you have to be challenged. I don’t care if you are black, white, brownie. I don’t care if you’re a pope, you’re a cardinal or you’re a president. That truth outweighs what anybody else’s particular perspective and particular position of wherever you stand in government or in church.
So we’ve tried to teach people here is that we are here to be servants of God and servants of his truth. And wherever that causes us to challenge and whatever voices that means causing us to raise up, I looked at the whole… and I challenged and have spoken here and wrote a letter to the president when the whole thing happened in Tucson, Arizona. The horrific thing of the shooting and Congressman Gifford and the people that were shot and that were killed. And it was a horrific and horrible thing. But why didn’t we deal with the large magazine clips coming out of that? Why do we still walk away from dealing with that?
Why do we send the head of the FBI to Tucson to find out the root of that incident but there’s no national response to black and brown children being killed from Newark to Oakland, California across this country. And we somehow said that a congresswoman’s life is more important than black children in Chicago? We can’t allow that.
So our allegiance to truth must cause us to ask the questions. And I believe to be a conscience to a country that has allowed our conscience to go to sleep.
West: Yeah, no, that’s powerful, brother. I see how the holy ghost had work in you, because when you’re telling those kind of truths you are cutting radically against the grain, my brother. But that’s where prophetic folk belong. That’s where progressive folk belong, cutting against the grain. Because there’s so many lies. And when you tell the truth it exposes those lies.
So much cowardice when you’re courageous it exposes the cowardice. And all the manipulation. And when you’re trying to be visionary it exposes the manipulation. And you have to do it with both a humility but also with a steadfastness, and that’s what you have been able to do for over 30 years on the chocolate side of Chi town, Chicago. That’s a beautiful thing, my brother.
Smiley: We refer to your parish as St. Sabina’s for short. It is St. Sabina, the full name is the Faith Community of St. Sabina’s. Doc mentioned at the top of this conversation the Faith Community of St. Sabina’s. What does that mean to be a faith community?
Fr. Pfleger: I want to remind everybody who comes here and everybody who joins here that our community is based in faith. Not just a group of people who come together and have church. Not just a religious denomination. Our roots, our foundation and our beliefs and our actions must be birthed out of the faith of which we stand on.
When all the winds and the waves stop it is the rock of faith that we must be standing on. And that we must be true to in the lives that we live every single day.
As I tell people here all the time, we come here on the Sunday mornings for the huddle. This is the huddle where we get the foundation of faith strengthened. Nobody goes to a ballgame to see a huddle. They want to know what you’re going to do on the field of life when you leave here. So we walk out of the huddle on Sunday mornings and then our job is to take that faith and now change the world. Wherever you are, your workplace, your marketplace, your home, your block, change the world. That’s our job.
Smiley: Leave the huddle and run the play.
Fr. Pfleger: Run the play, there you go.
West: Back into the world.
Smiley: Finally, Father Pfleger, if in fact you survive this most recent attempt to move you out of this Faith Community of St. Sabina’s after 30 years of being there, if you survive it, in short, what’s left in this calling of yours? What’s left for you to do in this vocation?
Fr. Pfleger: Well I’m trying to be very prayerful on that right now, Tavis, and see where the Lord leads me. I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church. If they say you either take this principalship of a high school or a pastorship there or leave, then I have to look outside the church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. I believe my calling is to be a voice for justice. I believe my calling is to preach the gospel. In or out of the church I’m going to continue to do that.
West: Well brother, I’ll tell you, Brother Martin Luther King, Jr. said we need a revolution in priorities because they’re so warped. We need a transfer of power so that working and poor people can live lives of dignity. And you embody that legacy of Brother Martin in ways that is so rare today.
Fr. Pfleger: Well you two brothers are my heroes.
West: It’s just a blessing. It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to talk to you. Know that we pray for you. We support you in terms of your willingness to be so courageous and find that joy in serving others. Not just serving, but find a joy in serving others. That’s passion. That’s vocation. That’s what it’s all about, keeping that love real and that critical consciousness concrete. It’s just a blessing to be in conversation with you, my brother.
Smiley: His name is Father Michael Pfleger. That’s spelled p-f-l-e-g-e-r. A little tricky there. Father Pfleger. There’s a new text out about his life and legacy, his work now for 30 years at the Faith Community of St. Sabina’s on the south side of Chicago. The book is called Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice.
Father Pfleger, as Doc said, we love you. Honored to have you on this program. Celebrate and revel in your humanity and your service to our community. Thank you for the time to share your insights today.
Fr. Pfleger: Thank you for being my heroes, my mentors and I love you both deeply. Thank you.
West: You stay strong, my brother.
Smiley: You can catch me weeknights on my TV show on PBS.
West: And you can catch me this Friday, April 15th, at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
Smiley: You got your cowboy boots for that trip, Doc? That’s all they wear down there, you know, that’s all they wear is cowboy boots.
West: No, they got sophistication, refinement and substance along with their boots down there, my brother.
Smiley: Check out our website www.smileyandwest.com, where you can sign up for our Speak Out Network. Subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Or call our Speak Out Network hotline toll free any time at 8555 SPEAKOUT. That’s 8555 SPEAKOUT.
West: Smiley & West is produced by SRP Productions and distributed by PRI, Public Radio International. The views expressed on this program, my dear brother, you know better than I, very much our own.
West: And do not necessarily represent the views of PRI or this station.
Smiley: Correct again. Our producer is Joe Zefran, our JZ. Our engineer the legendary Johnny Morris. This program recorded and mixed in the Sheryl Flowers Radio Studios here in Los Angeles.
West: I’m Cornel West. Stay strong my brothers and sisters of all colors.
Smiley: And in Los Angeles I’m Tavis Smiley. This is PRI. Keep the faith.
Francis Cardinal George keeps the Faith -read closely:
April 27, 2011
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.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George
Return to the warlocks:
– Thu Apr 28, 2:18 pm ET
CHICAGO, April 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- We at the Smiley & West show wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support our dear brother Father Pfleger. He is one of the grand prophetic voices in contemporary America. We were blessed to have him on our show three weeks ago in which he stated quite clearly: "I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. I believe my calling is to be a voice for justice. I believe my calling is to preach the gospel." There are few in contemporary Christendom who are more true to their calling than Father Pfleger. He, like us, is committed to the grand legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and we intend to be faithful unto death. Our prayers and best wishes are with Father Pfleger.
Be sure to tune-in to Smiley & West this weekend to hear West and Smiley comment on the suspension of Father Pfleger. For more information about Smiley & West, visit www.smileyandwest.com.
So much for the last word. That was quick:
April 29, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A new pastor has moved into St. Sabina, where the church's longtime leader, Father Michael Pfleger, was suspended earlier this week.
Father Andrew Smith moved into the rectory around 9 a.m. Friday on orders from Cardinal Francis George and Bishop Joseph Perry of the Chicago Archdiocese, according to a statement from the Faith Community of St. Sabina.
Cardinal George suspended Father Pfleger on Wednesday after a public battle over whether Father Pfleger should leave St. Sabina, where he has served for 30 years. Cardinal George had asked him to move to Leo High School, a move Pfleger publicly rejected, but, according to the suspension letter, which was released to the media by the Archdiocese, privately wanted.