CHICAGO, April 28, 2011 ( – Arrangements to shift a controversial Chicago priest out of his pastoral position fell apart after his bishop suspended him in response to combative remarks.


Cardinal Francis George of Chicago drew the line against Rev. Michael Pfleger, who is known for his outspoken support for pro-abortion politicians, after the latter said that he would leave the Catholic Church if he were removed from his position as head of Chicago’s St. Sabina parish, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

“If that is your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish,” the cardinal wrote in a letter to Pfleger. George’s office had been planning to transfer Pfleger to a local Catholic high school.

Pro-life Catholic leaders have criticized Pfleger for outspokenly supporting Barack Obama as a candidate despite his solidly pro-abortion record, calling the future U.S. president “the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.”

Pfleger has handed over the pulpit at St. Sabina to several pro-abortion figures, such as singer Harry Belafonte, who criticized George W. Bush for threatening a “woman’s right to abortion,” as well as former Democrat presidential candidate Al Sharpton.

The priest became known for his ability to bridge the racial divide, winning inroads with the predominantly African-American St. Sabina congregation. However, Pfleger’s relationship with the archdiocese has been a different story, causing friction after he publicly criticized the Catholic practice of a male-only, celibate clergy.

Pfleger later apologized for the remarks, but then withdrew the apology.

The archdiocese in April 2010 honored the priest with its Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement award. When asked about Pfleger’s questionable support of the pro-abortion Obama, Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice, told that the president was “not pro-abortion,” but “pro-choice,” a “very different thing.” Baird later retracted the claim in a statement on the archdiocese’s website.

At the awards ceremony two days later, Cardinal George emphasized that abortion was incompatible with racial justice, but also defended the volatile Pfleger against negative news coverage.

“Fr. Pfleger has been a controversialist; and controversy is easier to report on than is love,” said George. “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.”