“Turbulent Priests”

Claudette20maya20angelo20and20fathe "Chicago’s top Catholic leader condemned Pfleger’s comments. Cardinal Francis George said in a statement that Pfleger had promised him not to publicly mention any candidate by name this summer and fall and that he would abide by the "discipline common to all Catholic priests."

George said Pfleger’s words crossed a line. "Racial issues are both political and moral and are also highly charged," he said. "Words can be differently interpreted, but Father Pfleger’s remarks about Sen. Clinton are both partisan and amount to a personal attack. I regret that deeply."

Pfleger’s maverick style has set him apart from Chicago’s Catholic clergy dating to his seminary days, when he protested the Vietnam War and befriended Black Panthers.

But it also helped the priest turn a dwindling South Side congregation at St. Sabina into a thriving, predominantly African American parish. More than 2,100 parishioners call the church their spiritual home. In his three decades of ministry, it has been Pfleger’s first and only assignment.

He turned things around at St. Sabina by highlighting black church traditions, hanging African art on the walls and featuring a black Jesus with his hands outstretched above the altar."  LA Times


To paraphrase TS Eliot, "Who will rid me of these turbulent priests?"  Obama has not said that, but it would be understandable if he did.

Wright and Phlegar are representative of the same phenomenon, religion as politics, religion as  revolutionary philosophy.   

The Catholic Church in the United States does not wish to be a church solely devoted to the needs of middle class people.  The ministry to the poor and deprived is an old tradition.  There used to be "national parishes" of Irish, Italian, French, etc., immigrants and their children where services were held in the vernacular of the people who inhabited the parish.  This tradition continues on a smaller scale.

A friend of mine is an auxiliary bishop in a major city.  His ministry is to the inner city poor there.  I wonder how he would deal with this priest.

Father Phlegar has now been reprimanded by his ecclesiastical superior and has evidently promised to behave appropriately.  The Catholic Church is not a democracy.  Its structure, traditions and governance are those of the late Roman Empire in the West.  Diocletian might find that amusing.  For the diocesan clergy, there is no doubt at all as to who is in charge in a bishop’s territory.  It is he.  For Francis Cardinal George to say he "regrets deeply" something that one of his people has said or done is to declare to that priest and the world that this behavior must not be renewed or therapeutic action will be taken.

Nevertheless, the damage is done.  The image of Phlegar’s racist rantings will circulate endlessly on the internet.  The MSM are now powerless to prevent the dissemination of information no matter how much they try.   Then there is the continuing effect of Wright’s similar ravings.  There are also rumors of yet more video waiting to be released at well timed moments, video involving Mrs. Obama.

None of this indicates a happy future for the Democratic Party in the presidential race.  America is probably ready for a Black president if the candidate is someone who inspires the confidence of the generality of white people.  If the candidate does not inspire that confidence, then…

We could easily have a situation in 2009 in which the Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congresses but John McCain with all his evident emotional difficulties is president.

If that happens then Obama’s "friends" will have much to think about.  pl


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33 Responses to “Turbulent Priests”

  1. lina says:

    If there existed compromising video of Mrs. Obama, Sen. Clinton would have used it by now. (setence omitted)
    With 80 percent “wrong track” polling, I can’t see “the generality of white people” (whatever that is) swaying this election.

  2. frank durkee says:

    Having been, in another denomination, one of those “turbulent priests” I have some perspective on the two who are causing Obama problems. to be transparent I am an Obama supporter. I think they will damage his chances with those who are seeking a reason not to support Obama, for the rest I doubt that they will be a major determinant in the election. McCain has his own problems with “off the wall” clergy so it may well be a draw in that reguard. I suspect that the Arch bishop had additional agendas in mind when he apologised, given the political agenda of the Roman Church. At his level it’s a political decision to some extent. As the Col. well knows position, task, and context have a siginifcant bearing on perception and belief structure. That the two clergy are a hinderance for Obama is clear, that they represent a viewpoint in the black community is also clear. Mostly it is a viewpoint that the rest of the community doesn’t encounter or if it does, does so only in a perjorative framework. I don’t agree but I do have some sense of the factors and perspective tht move one to their viewpoints.
    If ‘the bishop’ is the church then prophercy is routinely lost and Christianity in its various catholic forms is in bigger trouble than I thought.

  3. Steve French says:

    Sen Clinton coudl be doing a very long set for 2012, though I think that’s unlikely. The Republicans could also be the one with the video.
    Do churches ever get into FEC trouble when they do political speeches?

  4. jonst says:

    Me personally? I would not bet on that. Despite all (or most) the media’s attempts to buffalo people into believing there is no difference between the Clinton’s and Rove et al I don’t buy the argument. In fact, personally, I think the people who do buy it display a dangerously naive perspective, reminiscent of the Gore v. Bush election . But that is, of course, just my take.
    I heard the same rumors with regard to MO. And I did not become aware of it via the net. Right now I hope and trust it is just that….an ugly rumor. A plant, if you will.
    I’m glad you posted this. Many of the blogs I read, and enjoy, seem to be a bit quiet about it all. I wonder if Keith O will do a
    “special comment” on it? I have my doubts.
    I was glad to see Obama rejected the comments (as pusillanimous as I thought his rejection was). However, I have to wonder about the congregation whooping it up in the background. Did they all fail to appreciate how this was, and is, going to be spun? Did they fail to understand how particularly grating this priest was going to be to a lot of people? Did they fail to grasp the timing implications vis-via getting Hillary to withdraw soon? And making peace with her supporters? And this is the same congregation that OB spent twenty years with? Mind you…I support, and have supported, from the beginning, Obama. I must say…this thing really worries me. This will haunt him, especially, in Ohio, Mich, Penn, and New Jersey. And, I suspect, to certain extent, within the Latino community. Campaigns, of all kinds, are tough enough. I hate gratuitous complications.

  5. Montag says:

    Colonel, I wish you would be more even-handed, unlike the MSM which has given McCain a Free Pass on HIS “troublesome priests” problems with Hagee, etc. It’s the old Catch-22 for McCain–he either didn’t know what these yokels were saying or he knew and didn’t care. Either possibility raises questions as to his qualifications for the office of First Consul of the Republic.
    I think rumors of the Michelle Obama recording are just that. Remember the rumors that Kitty Dukakis had burned a U.S. Flag during her salad days which never seemed to be substantiated? The excuse that the recording will only be produced in October gives plenty of time for the rumor to circulated without it having to be substantiated–a reverse “roorback,”* if you will. I give the testimony of all these “anonymous sources” the credibility which they deserve.
    The Catholic Church in the U.S. has had this problem before. Remember Father Coughlin “The Radio Priest?” His anti-Roosevelt diatribes made this latest apostate pale by comparison.
    *(In the 1844 presidential campaign newspapers circulated an extract late in the campaign from a fictitious book, “Roorback’s Tour Through the Western and Southern States in 1836,” in which a slave auction was described where Democratic candidate James K. Polk putatively bought and had branded 43 slaves. This cut heavily into Polk’s vote. Since then, the term “roorback” has been used to describe any false or damaging story about a politician issued so late in a campaign that he has no opportunity for an effective rebuttal.)

  6. jim says:

    Obama is toast in November. Blown up not on his own petard but on those of his mad dog followers.
    Perhaps it is best. He himself might have made a good President, but how could you trust the people near to him???

  7. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Happy Birthday
    Yesterday (5/30/08) Politico reported that in the invocation offered by Monsignor Jim Lisante at the New York State Republican Party dinner Thursday night, which included Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Peter King and where Vice-President Cheney later spoke, he mockingly asked God to change Obama’s mind and volunteered to replace the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as Obama’s pastor.
    Taken from the You Tube video attached to the article, Politico then reports that Msgr. Lisante stated:
    “One more thing, Lord. Please tell Sen. Obama that maybe change is a good thing and maybe he should think about changing his favorite preacher,” he said, to applause.
    “I know a lot more of us would be comfortable with his judgment skills if he hadn’t sat for 20 years through those words offered by his preacher of division, bigotry, and — honestly — half-truths without a word of objection from the senator until the media brought it up, and now he doesn’t want any part of the guy,” he said.
    “I’m willing to be his new preacher.”
    Politico continues:
    . . . this isn’t Lisante’s first partisan invocation. He got attention for a prayerful attack on Eliot Spitzer a couple of years ago, which he jokes in the video above was “prophetic.”
    As you know, because of the absolute nature of a bishop’s ecclesiastical authority over his see, the Catholic hierarchy does not apply evenly the kind of therapeutic consequences you refer to that might be applied to Fr. Pflieger.
    That is, the actions that the prelates of the Catholic Church take regarding social and political issues are not derived from a set of commonly agreed on theological principals but are framed by the individual bishop’s unique and personal understandings of how best to respond to these issues in the context of the needs of his own assigned territory.
    That Msgr. Lisante’s behavior has not been noted broadly by the MSM unlike the behavior of Fr. Pflieger or the Rev. Wright, or that whatever attention Msgr. Lisante received from his earlier statements about former Governor Spitzer had no obvious influence on him, is mute testimony to the kind of double standard within both the church and our secular society that is destructive to our solving our political differences.

  8. J.T. Davis says:

    With Bush approval ratings in the sub-basement, the election will be decided on the ability of the Democrats to tie McCain to the meme of the “Bush Third Term”. I think “slam dunk” is a jinxed cliche but I fell a bit more confident that whoever the Dem nominee turns out to be, McCain is the one with the problems. One thing is certain. Obama has the better campaign team of all three candidates in this race. I learned a new word and term of the political art. A “roorback”.

  9. ISL says:

    Given the state of the economy, gasoline at unheard of prices for Americans with their larger cars, the most unpopular president in polling history and a candidate who claims to want to continue his tradition, and a war that is very unpopular, again with a candidate that wants to continue it, McCain will need IMHO more than a few priest invectives to win. Or else the country is far more racist than I choose to believe/hope.
    Bottom line: I think americans will vote with their gas tanks and their paychecks – they usually do.

  10. zanzibar says:

    With Charlie Black and his merry band of K Street smear merchants running McCain’s campaign it is a certainty that there will be as much mud as can be slung in this election. Forget about issues – this Fall all the pundits will be discussing are “identity” and “character”. And the question that will be driven home is “do you want a terrorist sympathizing, faggot loving, Muslim, n** that will take your jobs, release all those “hoodlums” that will rape your women and destroy “our” Christian way of life?”
    The Clinton campaign will seem like a bunch of tame wussies compared to what is to come.
    Let’s remember that Charlie Black is in many ways the Repub smear campaign godfather. He, Roger Stone, Lee Atwater, Paul Manafort, Karl Rove, etc came from the same school of Young Republicans. They have run many a campaign based on innuendo and accusations that focus on character and identity. And now that ex US Attorney Griffin (part of Karl Rove’s let’s get our boys in the DOJ) has been brought on board to run oppo research its clear that Rove is also part of this shadow campaign team.
    So it will be interesting if the south side of Chicago machine team can compete with the hard hitting team that has won many a campaign using race as a central subtext. Think of the campaigns from the 72 Nixon to 90 Jesse Helms and on!

  11. Duncan Kinder says:

    This brouhaha about what some priest said is strange, weird, phony, and contrived.
    What are we going to do next; seek out quotes from some cabdriver who may have driven Obama somewhere?
    What about the ravings of the second cousin of the next door neighbor of his Third Grade principal?
    If this sort of tripe has any impact upon the election; then the American public deserves what it will get.

  12. John Hammer says:

    Many in the Obama camp are steeped in the irrationalism of irreversible momentum. The reality is that it is unlikely that he will come away with a single Southern state. Between that and his massive troubles in Appalachia, victory in the general election is improbable.

  13. J.T. says:

    The reality is the Dems don’t need the south to win.

  14. Sorry, the argument sounds like this to me: “I am not a racist but other people are, and Obama may look nice but underneath it all he’s a scary Negro with scary friends, so I won’t vote for him because of all the racist white people who will never vote for him.”
    That argument reminds me of the one we used to hear: “Hilary isn’t electable because too many right-wingers hate her guts and would never vote for a woman.”
    Those who don’t like Obama will find reasons to continue not to like him. I know I don’t like Hilary much and keep having my prejudice confirmed. I base my vote on the issues however. Both Obama and Hilary are eminently qualified to run the country, and have the resources to put together a good governing team. Whoever is the Democratic nominee will get my vote in November.
    (But Hilary needs to take meditation lessons and learn to keep her cool in public)

  15. Nancy K says:

    I agree with the person who stated that people who would not vote for Obama anyway, will use this as a reason to justify their decision.
    If Americans will not vote for a person because he is black than they deserve to have a very white McCain as president. As for myself, I’m voting for Obama,

  16. Cujo359 says:

    While they may cause a few minds to change, I have to agree that this issue is pretty contrived. Nothing Obama’s done or said indicates that he agrees with these guys.
    McCain ought to have at least as much trouble with his “turbulent priests”, but somehow he’s getting a pass. He actively sought the blessing of a priest who openly despises Catholics and Jews. Why is the MSM able to keep this one quiet and not Obama’s priestly troubles? Selective effort, I think.

  17. rjj says:

    We could easily have a situation in 2009 in which the Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congresses but John McCain with all his evident emotional difficulties is president.

    How would this be such a bad thing? It all depends on the meaning and implication of “evident emotional difficulties.” And whose emotional difficulties?

    The prospect of a hot tempered little guy hurling the White House Hepplewhites at the help does not alarm me.
    Another ungracious, callow, less-than-industrious, inexperienced puppet

    ** using messianic rhetoric;
    ** whose policy expertise is limited to race relations;
    ** possessing questionable judgment; AND
    ** dependent on powers behind the throne;


  18. Arun says:

    I’m with Nancy K. Who would make the better president – Obama or McCain – has one answer only, and if the “generality of whites” don’t see that, then the country deserves the third term of Bush that it will get.

  19. Ben says:

    Obama will not get few votes from Asian, Latino and working class whites. How in the world can he win? Who is delusional here? I suspect D Party officials and heavy weights simply settle scores with Bill Clinton by rejecting Hillary. It has been a shame how this D primary election turned out. Hillary fought a war on both sides against Obama and MSM, not to mention her own party worked against her. Maybe she should consider run for general election as an independent. I for one will surely vote for her.

  20. Mark K Logan says:

    http://monroeanderson.typepad.com/ Obama resigns from Trinity.
    I rather doubt this will benefit him. Raise new doubts about his reason for
    participating instead of examining the nature of the church, of which there
    is far more to be proud of than ashamed about. That examination I was sort of looking forward to.
    The Rev. Wright (and I suspect Father Pfleger, but I haven’t studied his parish) represent something that he could have used to an advantage. There are many institutions in the inner cities but precious few positive ones. Churches like Trinity through their energetic ministries are one of those very precious few. They are in fact the goal of the rights “Faith Based” initiatives. Community evolvement that doesn’t depend on the government. Christianity engaged in it’s most noble endeavor, folks. So a few of it’s Knights have a couple of warts? Deal with it. Be thankful these people exist. They save lives..
    OK, off my soapbox.
    The Col. explained the cultural background of this type of church clearly. It’s not a difficult concept to explain or to grasp. I suspect both we and Obamas campaign would have been better served by an examination
    of this institution than we are by this belated sweeping-under-the-rug of it. This is one case where I distinctly
    disagree with the otherwise very intelligently run Obama campaign.
    Just my opinion, I could be wrong. Frequently am, in fact….

  21. lina says:

    This might be the year the right wing slime machine over-plays its hand – especially if they go after the candidate’s wife.
    But it’s also important to consider – putting a black man in the White House is nothing short of revolutionary. Nothing about it has been or will be easy.

  22. John Hammer says:

    J.T. –
    Maybe you are right, “The reality is the Dems don’t need the south to win”. And, the position of your comment suggests that you may not be responding directly to me. However, the Appalachian Mountains happen to have a whole lot of Blue folk, Union Blue folk. Yep, it runs that deep. This country wasn’t built in a day. Am I just being a jerk when I raise the issue of irreversible momentum??

  23. jonst says:

    I salute all the seekers of wisdom and justice, with their…’well, the only thing that SHOULD matter in a Presidential election should be…..’, and those who assure us that ‘if we not smart enough to elect [fill in the blank]we (Americans)get what we deserve.’
    I salute you all.

  24. J.T. Davis says:

    John Hammer,
    I was responding to you but also informing others. It is a controversial theory to some Dem strategists like Mudcat Saunders and Carville but Tom Schaller made the case rather well in Whistling Past Dixie: How The Dems Can Win Without The South.
    I think you are seeing that happening. I also think that The Southern Strategy that put Reagan in the White House is like fighting the last war, or even refighting the Civil War. Those days are over by the law of changing demographiics and the passage of time.
    This is not to say that it won’t be a close fight in the electoral votes (popular vote won’t be as close) but when you consider McCain’s problems, he’s in greater trouble than we all may realize, partly because of the free pass he’s gotten by the press and the Dems have yet to settle on a nominee and turn the big guns on him.
    Talk about a flip flopper (or worse, his mind is going) and political pandered with no integrity…
    And that is from Nov. 2007. It’s been updated since. The link to the update is there.
    I keep track at this site:

  25. J.T. Davis says:

    And no, John. I don’t think you are being a jerk. You are being cautious, careful and circumspect. The stakes are rather high and I trust angry supporters of either Dem candidate who does finally drop out will take that into consideration and remember who the real opponent is here. As a point of disclosure, I’m not an Obama or Clinton supporter as much as I am intent upon keeping McCain out of the WH. I voted for Edwards in my state primary, by mail, and he dropped out before the day of the primary. I knew Hillary or Obama was likely to be the nominee and would still be happy with either one as the Dem candidate.

  26. Propagandist says:

    Let’s be honest here and admit that white Democratic presidential candidates have long been required to assuage the fears and concerns of Black voters. This is due to the particular ethnic makeup of the Democratic Party and the concentration of its power in large urban areas.
    With this in mind, and given that he will be the first Black nominee, it is not insensible that Obama will be required to assuage the fears and concerns of White voters. Racists will be racists and Obama will have no need to concern himself with this type of voter, but the vast bulk of White America are not overt racists. These “normal”, everyday working Americans will still require a higher level of comfort with Obama than they might otherwise with a typical White candidate.
    Ironically, in many respects Obama will find himself running against the ghost of Martin Luther King. This is the one Black leader most respected among White America and comparisons between the two men, while perhaps not fair, are inevitable. Faced with a potentially aggressive McCain campaign, the tone of Obama’s responses will be critical in determining White America’s comfort level with him as potential Presidential material.
    Thus Obama’s problems with Trinity Church and its various speakers are important issues for White Americans, and rightly so. Pseudo Black radicalism is a popular mantle within that community for a number of cultural reasons, especially among the growing Black middle class. But such cultural behavior is unfamiliar and scary to White Americans. This is not necessarily a racist reaction, but an honest response to the unfamiliar. Obama must convince White America that he is the candidate for them and not the pseudo-radical Black middle class. I don’t know much about Obama’s past, but this task could be more difficult given his choice to begin his political career on Chicago’s south side. McCain’s researchers might find a great deal of ammunition in past statements to stoke the fires of White America’s subconscious fears.

  27. Richard Whitman says:

    A good political ploy for Obama at this point would be to get Rev Wright and Fr Pfledger to endorse John McCain.

  28. Matthew says:

    As an Obama supporter, these kerfluffes about his preachers and supporters confirm my prejudice: Those who don’t want to vote for a Black man–particularly one who raisies prodigious amounts of money from regular people, i.e., not the chattering classes–will find reasons to confirm their decision. Whether these “reasons” actually motivated their decision is another matter.

  29. rjj says:

    I don’t know enough. I don’t think it is possible to know anything with much certainty. Anyway, I am very, very lazy, so I will have to base my choice in the election on:

    1. the reading of entrails.
    2. observations of orbital perturbations.
    3. listening carefully: though there is no reason to believe their claims, how they make them, what they don’t say, AND their conduct contain some useful information.

    The dissonances are loud and clear:

    1. Obama’s mysteriously rapid advancement.
    2. The mismatch between the smoothness/skill of his campaign operations and his level of preparedness – his lack of command of the issues: “… doesn’t do his homework…” — doesn’t have to?
    3. The mismatch between the lofty words and the yobbish behavior.
    4. The hyping of this candidate by the very same CorpsMedia that sold the public on Cheney’s Iraq War.
    5. Money. Money. Money. Money. Money.
    6. Timing. Where did this come from? Why now, as the crap accelerateth fanward and the Republicans are doing post mortems on what they term “conservatism,” do the Dems choose to adopt Rovian tactics and Rumsfeldian strategy?

    From George Packer’s “New Yorker”.

    [quoting Frum] “Republicans have been reprising Nixon’s 1972 campaign against McGovern for a third of a century. As the excesses of the 1960s have dwindled into history, however, the 1972 campaign has worked less and less well.” He adds, “How many more elections can conservatives win by campaigning against Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale?

    But MIRABILE DICTU!!! the dupable Dems have provided (See Recreate 68). Karl Rove himself might have designed the candidate. Or the young Pat Buchanan.

    [Pat Buchanan’s “Dividing the Democrats” memo to Nixon] recommended that the White House “exacerbate the ideological division” between the Old and New Left by praising Democrats who supported any of Nixon’s policies; highlight “the elitism and quasi-anti-Americanism of the National Democratic Party”; … Finally, the memo recommended exploiting racial tensions among Democrats. “Bumper stickers calling for black Presidential and especially Vice-Presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote. “We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention.” Such gambits, he added, could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”

    It’s baffling.

  30. Bobo says:

    Pfleger and Wright have served their flock well in Chicago but their sermons, meant only for the locals, put on a national stage has left a righful indignation. Now Obama has left them to their own foibles as he can rightously say “I no longer belong or agree with them” Is it or will it be that easy??
    The real attraction of the political pros to Obama is his money list and they cannot wait to get a hold of it.
    As to Mrs. Obama and the purported video I’m sure there is one but it will not live up to the suspense it now derives.
    Come November we will go to the voting booth and as always we will vote for the lesser of two evils. My money is on the scenario in the 2nd to last paragraph above.
    Only wish November would come sooner.

  31. arbogast says:

    The economic situation is going to be much, much worse on November 5th.
    For one thing, heating fuel costs are skyrocketing (one could imagine a scenario where the Saudi’s save McCain by pumping more oil, but they would have to want to).
    The times will be turbulent in November. Phleger is a harbinger of things to come.

  32. JBV says:

    I find it hilarious how white people (see Chris Matthews’ face after pfleger video)are so upset by Pfleger’s words.
    To think that black people on the south side of Chicago would resent white people’s overweening sense of entitlement (especially vis a vis what ‘the other’ is expected to feel entitled to in this country?)
    Wake up white people! America commits real and present class crime everyday in terms of – safe neighborhoods, good schools, pollution free areas, activities for children.
    Guess who gets to breath the vast majority of clean air in this country? Is it on the south side of chicago or its lakefront suburbs? (rhetorical question.)

  33. larrybob says:

    wow, seems BHO was right when he quoted the old saw that the most racially divided time in america is sunday morning…hasn’t anyone been to a black church that reads this blog? jeepers, and do you all believe everything your minister/priest claims; is your faith that shallow? for the record, Father Phleger is famous in chicago, staying at St. Sabina for over 20 years. He has done a lot of good work, especially about violence and poverty. His church, unlike many other chicago perishes, is flurishing. This grates on Cardinal George, an extremely conservative cardinal (friends with Pope Benny), who has been trying to replace Father Phleger for years. They have come to a form of detente, and not much will come of this. As for your bishop friend, PL, i doubt he would do anything other than reprimand: the father fills the seats.

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