The controversial Catholic priest who recently caused Barack Obama to leave his church, has been placed on temporary leave by Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago.
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Cardinal George said that he has asked Fr. Michael Pfleger to take leave from his duties as pastor at St. Sabina’s Parish for “a couple of weeks” effective as of Tuesday. The time away is to help Fr. Pfleger “put recent events in some perspective,” the cardinal said.
Fr. Pfleger, Cardinal George said, “does not believe this to be the right step at this time.”
But Cardinal George disagreed with the embattled pastor, saying, “While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests. I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight and for rest and attention to family concerns.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, additionally, the 59-year-old pastor was instructed to move out of the rectory during his two-week leave.
Fr. Pfleger’s temporary suspension comes after he delivered a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, in which he made fun of Hillary Clinton crying just before the New Hampshire primary and said that she was shocked by Sen. Barack Obama’s performance in the primaries because she felt entitled to win since she is a white woman.
A group of parishioners from St. Sabina’s reacted to the news by holding a service on Tuesday night with Rev. Jeremiah Wright in attendance. The group of parishioners called for Fr. Pfleger’s reinstatement and a meeting with Cardinal George, according to the Associated Press.
In his statement about Fr. Pfleger taking leave, Cardinal George said that he hopes “that the life of St. Sabina’s parish may continue in uninterrupted fashion.” He also added that, “Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian’s parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina’s and will assure the full complement of ministerial services during this period. I ask the members of St. Sabina’s parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers. They are in mine.”