Cardinal George's Response to Father Pflegler

John ArmstrongSeparation of Church & State

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.