Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Taking my advice (and doubtless that of many others), Cardinal Francis George of Chicago pulled the execrable Fr. Michael Pfleger out of his parish for a couple of weeks of reflection. Too little, too late, I fear, since his personal corruption of the priestly vocation has too long infected his flock and now they are howling and hunger-striking for his re-instatement.

It should never have come to this -- Pfleger has a history of histrionic and outrageous behaviour, arrests for showboating acts of civil disobedience, and has clearly cultivated a form of worship which is antithetical to the condu
ct of a Catholic Mass.

[Listen to the
rambling, hysterical recorded sermon from a week ago, available on the parish website-- listen to the mindlessly raucous response among the congregation, and you'll get the picture. It's the sermon where he compares Herod and Pontius Pilate to Hannity and Colmes, and is basically an anti-YouTube diatribe making excuses (without mentioning any names) for what we've learned about him and Jeremiah Wright. Note that the recordings available for sale feature sermons by celebrity guest preachers, predominantly non-ordained, even non-Catholic -- Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, Otis Moss, Marian Wright Edelman -- which is a violation of Catholic liturgical directives.]

Pfleger has been pastor of St. Sabina's for over 25 years. I don't know how common that is in American diocesan practice, but it's unheard of in my neck of the Catholic woods, where a priest typically stays in one parish between 6 and 10 years -- precisely to avoid the kind of entrenched fiefdom and personality cult Pfleger has created for himself in south Chicago.

Check out the
Pastor's CV link on the parish website, and see what he's been up to all these years: a huge scroll of social activist credits and community awards suggesting careerism and publicity-seeking that could hardly spare him time for conventional, unspectacular Catholic pastoral work. In the most obvious case, Pfleger has conducted an ongoing public battle against a wide range of liquor advertising, some of which seems a very conventional exercise of freedom of expression about a legal product, by companies like Seagram's, on the grounds that it is somehow targeted to children. As a priest, would it not have been better to expend this energy within his parish sphere, preaching against the kind of personal moral decay that leads to neglect of children, broken families, and alcohol abuse?

This man has clearly been out of control for most of his tenure at St. Sabina's, and the fact that he has operated unchecked all this time betrays rank negligence on the part of the current and previous Cardinals. Amongst other things, he has adopted two children, now adults-- who let this happen? Sorry, dude, but when you become a priest you choose a way of life which precludes behaving like a married man, including taking on private, personal fatherhood, which can only come at the expense of pastoral fatherhood -- or vice versa. Pfleger's has been a career full of grand public gestures. He may well have taken decent care of his adopted sons, and he may have worked for worthwhile social causes-- but that doesn't mean these were appropriate to his vocation as a pastor.

Now Pfleger is an international scandal (thanks to YouTube). This should never have happened. Sadly, given the state of Catholic leadership in the past few decades, it is no great surprise.

I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless, this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal... [h/t New York Times ]
Sweet Jesus!!!! (And I DON'T mean YOU, Barack!)

I'd be the first one to acknowledge that
John McCain exudes a certain type of grating arrogance from time to time, but he's got NOTHIN' on Barack -- a man who can't seem to stop at mere [vapid] rhetorical flight, and plows on to borderline blasphemy. The only thing new in his victory speech was an odd sense of anger that arose a few minutes in (shortly after he tried to redeem himself by hauling his grandmother out from under the bus where she'd been dragging along since March) and persisted to the end.


Hillary Clinton announced this evening that she will suspend her campaign as of this Friday.

Well, that's the campaign for the Presidency. Her campaign for the Vice-Presidency was launched full tilt boogie in her speech after winning the South Dakota primary last night, stealing Obama's thunder on the night he, truly, accomplished a revolutionary moment in American political and social history.

Be it understood: the serious candidacy of a woman and a black man for the office of President is a revolutionary moment, and is welcomed, in theory. But it's kind of a sad moment, too, in that neither this woman nor this man is fit to hold that office.

Cynics and America-bashers enjoy accusing the country of not being ready for a woman or a black president. BOLLOCKS, as the Brits would say. We're ready. But this is not the right woman, and not the right black man. Together, or separately, I believe the country would recognize this and not elect either of them. The bashers will attribute all kinds of vile motives to it, but it's only wisdom.


McCain will never win on style, though it would be possible to write a speech which better suits his limited rhetorical gifts than the one he gave, so very lamely, last night. Speech writers, please, do not try to put the cheap gimmick of the Pentecostal refrain into McCain's mouth ["That's not change you can believe in......"]-- it's just not him. The word-smiths did him no service.

Obama has proposed to re-visit the Lincoln-Douglas debates: prepared statements lasting 90 minutes! [Like a sermon at Trinity United? Arghhhhh.] Perfect for Barack the teleprompter king. McCain has proposed, more realistically, a series of town meetings, taking questions from Real People: perfect for him, disaster for the fumbling unscripted Obama.

Let the games begin.