Two things puzzle me about the heated and heartfelt opposition to the removal of Rev. Michael Pfleger as the pastor of St. Sabina's: How can one man get so passionately attached to his job that he thinks his parishioners can't get along without him? And how can the parishioners get so passionately attached to one man that they can't get along with him?
Central to the debate is the eternal question: Is it the faith or the man? Is St. Sabina's congregation so robust because of Father Pfleger or because of their faith? If the latter, will be it as strong without the man? This is not a insignificant question; it goes to the heart of the question of faith.
Some argue that the point of contention between Father Pfleger and Cardinal Francis George is one of obedience. Priests take oaths to obey, and Pfleger clearly is in violation of that oath. By publicly challenging the cardinal, he is damaging the church.
There's no denying the good work that Father Pfleger does; the spirit of hope and unity that he infuses in his congregation and community. Some of his tactics can be questioned, but no one should question his intentions.
Because of the wonders that he has done at St. Sabina, I don't understand why he wouldn't want to bring his considerable talents to the nearby Leo Catholic High School. In that, he would not be leaving the neighborhood where he is so beloved. Imagine how his enthusiasm and skills could energize a whole, new sphere.
But again, what I find so troubling is that while Father Pfleger brought his congregation to Christ, would they remain with Him after their pastor is gone? If they really are truly faithful, who their pastor is shouldn't matter all that much. They are there to receive the sacraments, not for a show.
Before Christ's passion and death, the apostles feared they could not get along without Him. Turns out that Christ did not truly leave them. But in his physical absence, their faith sustained them, a faith that has been shared by 2,000 years of believers. If the apostles could get along without the inspiring physical presence of Christ, then I suppose the St. Sabina parishioners should be able to get along without Father Pfleger. Unless, of course, he and his congregation think of him as Christ.
Will the parish survive? I hope so. And it will if the parishioners have faith in their faith.