By Kathleen Gilbert
CHICAGO, April 6, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Racial Justice has announced that Fr. Michael Pfleger, the notoriously controversial priest who has been a prominent supporter of pro-abortion politicians, including President Barack Obama, will be honored at the office's anniversary event in April. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who is president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has approved of the honor and will preside at the event.
Fr. Michael Pfleger, the pastor of Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago, was listed as a planned recipient of the Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement award at an event celebrating the Office for Racial Justice's 10th anniversary and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 7th.
Pfleger gained notoriety as a former member of the Catholics for Obama Committee, a voluntary advisory committee to the Obama campaign, and for having called Obama "the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.”
Pfleger has also drawn criticism from the Archdiocese of Chicago for hosting and supporting various pro-abortion figures, including Rev. Al Sharpton. In 2003, Pfleger violated archdiocesan rules forbidding pro-abortion individuals to speak at the pulpit by inviting singer Harry Belafonte to speak at Sunday Mass at St. Sabina. Belafonte used the opportunity to criticize President George W. Bush for threatening a "woman's right to abortion" with his pro-life policies.
Ironically, the priest has also drawn fire for racist-themed remarks: in 2008 during a videotaped homily, the priest mocked then-senator Hillary Clinton's impending defeat by candidate Obama, implying that Clinton was racist and annoyed that "there's a black man stealing my show." Several days after the remark, which garnered condemnation from both Obama and Cardinal George, Fr. Pfleger apologized, and took a two-week disciplinary leave of absence at the cardinal's urging.
When LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) spoke with Sr. Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice, she confirmed that Cardinal George had approved the award, and said Fr. Pfleger "has dedicated his life to working for racial justice."
When LSN asked about Pfleger's endorsement of Mr. Obama, Baird interjected, stating that "the president is not pro-abortion, the president is pro-choice." "I think they are two very different things," she said.
Asked to elaborate, Baird continued: "To be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. And I don't think you'll find that the president has ever said that." Baird pointed to President Obama's controversial abortion-themed speech at the University of Notre Dame last May, saying that "his challenge was that we find ways to ensure that women - that would be their last choice, and that they would choose life."
"I just think we need to be clear with our language," said Baird.
Obama's speech at Notre Dame counseled graduates to shun "demonizing" proponents of the killing of unborn children, and to instead seek "common ground" on the issue.
Baird emphasized that "Fr. Pfleger is a priest in good standing in the archdiocese in Chicago," and that Cardinal George reinstated Pfleger as pastor of St. Sabina after the two-week leave. "So that is not an issue here," she said.
Asked about the Office for Racial Justice's position on life, Baird pointed to the "seamless garment" theory of former Chicago Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. She declined to take a position on the issue of endorsing pro-choice candidates.
The Chicago Archbishop's office has not responded to LSN's request for comment on the award as of press time.
Click here for contact information for the Archdiocese of Chicago.