I have made the point numerous times on this site, and in my ACT 3 Weekly E-zine columns, that ministers ought to avoid partisan political positions and speech. I also argued that Governor Huckabee would have been wise to give up his ordination when he ran for office, as I would say for any other minister. The radically different roles of minister and political servant of the state are too easily confused. We ought to work very hard to correct this confusion.

We got a great reminder of how this can be done when Father Michael Pflegler spoke out on May 25 about Hillary Clinton and turned a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ into an endorsement of Barack Obama. Images
The swift response of Francis Cardinal George of Chicago was beautiful and correct. He reminded Father Pflegler that his role was to serve his parish as a priest, not to engage in partisan politics. Pflegler has done this for many years and thus his recent tirade does not appear to be in keeping with his long-term ministry in Chicago.

Protestants could learn a great deal from this response. I wish we would at least try to call our own to task in some meaningful way but since most of our ministers submit to no authority but their own it is almost impossible that we will clean this up in the future. Self-policing can work but not in the present context. Thank God for Cardinal George and his swift actions. He encouraged me a great deal when I saw his deft and wise pastoral skills used in the public arena last week.

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  1. Adam S June 5, 2008 at 7:53 am

    In general I agree. But Cardinal George has tried at least twice to remove him from the parish completely and Father Pflegler and the parish basically refused to allow him to be moved. Cardinal George thought that he had been there too long and that he had too much control over the parish. So he wanted to bring in a new priest.
    I agree that the punishment is reasonable, and Father Pflagler has accepted it and is not protesting the punishment. But the fact the Cardinal has tried to remove him before taints it a bit.

  2. Gene Redlin June 5, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Brother John, This is a good article regarding Cardinal George’s effective and correct Discipline of Father Pfleger.
    Father Pfleger is to his people the Catholic Church, if he represents it grossly incorrectly he should be disciplined. This is not a doctrinal discussion like one that was held here regarding Open or Close(d) communion. This is about besmirching what the Church is in the lives of it’s parishes and the effect it has on the congregation.
    I only have one quibble with your analysis regarding ministers in Politics, that they should:
    “”….give up his ordination when he ran for office, as I would say for any other minister””.
    Give up his ordination? Can you? Sure you can turn in your credentials. You can turn your back on Jesus. You can renounce the faith. You can go to hell if you desire but you’ll still be ordained in HELL.
    Ordination is forever. It’s people by the Spirit of God saying YOU were Ordained by God. It’s not a “Turn in able” title the result of education or time.
    I am somewhat concerned about the whole concept of hierarchy of credential ling. It’s not really in line with scripture. It follows with my concern about the whole Church Membership idea that our Blog Friend Steve Scott has written on so well .
    The point is, if GOD ordains one to the ministry and that is acknowledged by some worldly institution which is the greater? Which is eternal? Institutions should only be in the business of recognizing the ordination of God. Not trying to supplant Him. Some people are Ordained by institutions but not by God. Others are ordained by God but not by institutions. I know what side of that I want to be on.
    Pfleger if he goes to hell will still be Ordained. I hope he doesn’t but there are no guarantees, ordained or not.

  3. Harold June 5, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    When will some congregations and pastors/ preachers learn that the task of a pastor is outlined in 1 TIM. 3:1-7, 1 PETER 5:1-4, Acts 20:25-28, including the Great commission texts in Matt. 28, Mark. 16, Luke 24, Acts 1:8?. One saving grace for the R.C. church is that a human higher authority can lower the boom, so to speak. A congregation itself has the authority to minister the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, and should remind its called pastors of their only task—to forgive and retain sin, to serve the spiritual needs of people. Why don’t members of the flock rise up to their calling, and call a pastor to task when they wander out of bounds? Some churches are a mess, some leaders and pastors mess it up; God’s kingdom suffers, and the church is laughed at by the world. …Harold

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