By Kathleen Gilbert

CHICAGO, April 8, 2010 ( – Presiding at an archdiocesan event honoring controversial priest Fr. Michael Pfleger for his civil rights work, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago took the opportunity to criticize media scrutiny of the award, but also to highlight the fact that, far from being irrelevant to the theme of the event, “abortion kills racial and social justice.”

The Dr. King Prayer Service and Racial Justice Awards sparked controversy in pro-life Catholic circles after it was revealed that Fr. Pfleger, an outspoken supporter of strongly pro-abortion U.S. President Obama, would receive an award from the archdiocese’s Office of Racial Justice at the event.

Cardinal George responded to the controversy in his remarks by defending Pfleger as “a Catholic priest and a pastor,” saying that, “in that capacity, like all good priests and pastors, he acts out of love.”

The cardinal then went on to say that, “As part of his ministry for racial justice, Fr. Pfleger has addressed killing, for killing is not an act of love,” a theme that the cardinal applied to the issues of abortion and race. (To read the cardinal’s complete remarks, click here)

“We are surrounded by killing on the streets and in the schools, by violence in homes and by abortion that kills a child in its mother’s womb,” he said. “The killing of the unborn is obviously a racial justice issue when disproportionately those killed before birth come from families of racial minorities. Abortion kills. It kills an unborn child, and it often kills a mother’s spirit. It kills a society that embraces it as a personal right. Abortion kills social and racial justice.”

George delivered the remarks the same day that Sr. Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice, apologized after telling (LSN) that President Obama is “not pro-abortion,” but “pro-choice,” which she called “two very different things.” LSN had been interviewing Baird on Fr. Pfleger and his support for Obama.

After Baird’s statement made headlines on several Catholic news outlets, she issued an apology Wednesday “affirming my belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church and understand that there can be no distinction between pro-abortion and pro-choice, because the choice at issue is the choice to kill a child.”

In his homily Wednesday, Cardinal George criticized the “media interest” garnered by Fr. Pfleger’s award.

“Fr. Pfleger has been a controversialist; and controversy is easier to report on than is love,” he said. “Fr. Plfeger has spoken in anger, sometimes unjustly or uncharitably; and anger is easier to capture on the camera than is love. But Fr. Pfleger is a Catholic priest and a pastor, and in that capacity, like all good priests and pastors, he acts out of love. Ask his people. Ask the sick he has visited and the dying he has attended. Ask the troubled he has consoled. Ask the young people he has counseled and the school children he has supported. “

A former member of the Catholics for Obama Committee, a voluntary advisory committee to the Obama campaign, Fr. Pfleger won notoriety in 2008 for enthusiastically supporting the radically pro-abortion candidate as “the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.” He also drew fire for inviting a pro-abortion speaker to address a Sunday Mass congregation at his parish, St. Sabina, contrary to archdiocesan rules.

Click here to read Cardinal George’s full homily at the Dr. King Prayer Service and Racial Justice Awards.