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Ron Rychlak on Father Pfleger:

Upon seeing clips Father Michael Pfleger's now-infamous sermon, I think many Catholics responded as I did--before even focusing on the substance of the sermon, the first response was, "What the heck? I've never seen a Catholic Priest act like that!" And I've continued to harbor a deep psychological reservation that somehow it was just misreported, and that he couldn't actually be a Catholic Priest in good-standing.

Well, looks like my hopes have been dashed. Ron Rychlak, Associate Dean of Ole Miss Law School, has a profile and critique of Rev. Plegler here. Certainly not the typical Priest.

josh:
Couldn't agree more. This same standard should be (or have been) applied to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Hagee, and all other "Agents of Intolerance."
9.10.2008 11:54am
Anderson (mail):
Father Pfleger's self-indulgent liturgical abuses

Did I miss the details of that in Rychlak's article? Wanted to hear more about those. Using M&M's for the Host? Modeling the Eucharist on scenes from Tommy? What, exactly?
9.10.2008 12:10pm
Hoosier:
And josh manages to miss the point in the very first post.

(Not to mention that it is no longer up to us to set the standards for Falwell.)

If you read the linked article, but are not familiar with the Catholics Church, then you might have missed why this issue is, as the authors says, "problematic" for Catholics--in a way that it is not for various Protestant denominations. Here is the crux:

These political issues, however, are also moral issues for the Church. The line can be hard to draw in some cases, but Father Pfleger's liberation theology is clearly beyond the scope of the Church's Magisterium.

Magisterium = Teaching authority

Priests, when exercising their priestly duties, cannot teach on matters that extend beyond the scope of the teaching authority of the Church for which they speak. And throughout Mass, a priest is serving as a priest.

The equivalency argument that you suggest is a logical category error. Ministers in the Anabaptist and Pentecostal traditions have no responsibility to limit their teaching to the Church's Magesterium. If they did, they'd be Catholics.
9.10.2008 12:17pm
Jim Hu:
Perhaps I haven't had enough coffee, but it's not clear to me what you were hoping.
9.10.2008 12:19pm
PLR:
Perhaps I haven't had enough coffee, but it's not clear to me what you were hoping.

I think he was hoping that the priest was a poseur or in some fashion had been outlawed by the church.
9.10.2008 12:26pm
josh:
Hoosier:

"And josh manages to miss the point in the very first post.(Not to mention that it is no longer up to us to set the standards for Falwell.)"

That's why I wrote, "This same standard should be (OR HAVE BEEN)" (emphasis added).

I see your point as to the difference between Catholic Magisterium and Protestinism teaching, but, in some regards, including within the article cited here, it's a distinction without a difference. The article follows your selective quote with this:

"In addition to being a problem for the Church, when a priest gets too involved in politics, he can also offend the government. Like most charities, churches are tax-exempt, and donations made to them may be deducted from the donor's income taxes. Donations to political causes, on the other hand, are not deductible. If a church ventures too far into politics, it can lose its tax status. Churches can engage in educational efforts -- even "get out the vote" drives -- but they are not supposed to advance particular candidates or parties. When they do, the government may respond."

Here, of course, the author broadens his criticism of Pfleger to "churches," not just Catholic priests. The article in total appears in my reading to be a comment not just on Pfleger's alleged conflicts with the Church, but with the acceptible behavior for all clergy.

In that regard, I agree with the author (on both the Catholic and broader "church" front). I just wish people would apply this criticism even-handedly.
9.10.2008 12:30pm
Kazinski:
Josh:

I just wish people would apply this criticism even-handedly.

And we know Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Haggert, Swaggert, et al, haven't ever been critisized. Except of course there was a word coined to describe them and their message: Idiotarian.
9.10.2008 12:55pm
josh:
Kazinski

Don't think I ever said Falwell, Robertson, et al have not been criticized. In a comment to this post and this post alone, I was just agreeing with the author of the linked-to piece and wishing his standard was applied even handedly. Do you disagree with that latter sentiment?
9.10.2008 1:39pm
BGates:
Falwell, Robertson, et al have been criticized much more severely than Pfleger, Wright, et al.
9.10.2008 2:08pm
josh:
BGates

I suppose that really depends on how you measure. If you're counting strictly the number of criticisms, you're right. But that seems unfair b/c Pfleger and Wright simply were not the national figures Falwell/Robertson are/were. If you measure by number of criticisms over an objective period of time (say, by comparing the hits Robertson took for one of his ridiculous comments about 9/11 over a year with a year's worth of coverage about Wright), I'd say Wright or Pfleger have the old "Agents of Intolerance" beat by a hefty margin.
9.10.2008 2:15pm
paul lukasiak (mail):

I was just agreeing with the author of the linked-to piece and wishing his standard was applied even handedly. Do you disagree with that latter sentiment?


the critique appears on a website called "InsideCatholic.com". He's writing about issues of importance to Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, its just plain silly to bring up Falwell, Robertson, etc within that context.
9.10.2008 2:23pm
tommears (mail):

When a priest embraces a political viewpoint, it can alienate members of the congregation. The Catholic Church does not claim to have the correct political or economic solution to each problem; it speaks to eternal principles. When a priest claims to know the correct political solution to a typical social problem, he is likely going beyond the Church's teachings


I think we can all recall quite a number of Catholic, Protestant, and evangelical denominations who would not support this statement. Many religious leaders today routinely use their pulpit to put forward political solutions to social problems. Whether it is on the right or the left, politics and religion are certainly not wholly separated today. I'm not sure that this has ever been true. We live in a society where many of our religious leaders often tell us who we should vote for, or how we should vote on a number of issues. The author (and myself) may wish this were not the case...but that doesn't change facts.
9.10.2008 3:17pm
Zywicki (mail):
Jim Hu: Sorry for the ambiguity--my "hope" was tongue-in-cheek, just a rhetorical device to introduce how peculiar Pflegler's performance was for a priest.
9.10.2008 4:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
tommears
And it's astonishing what they teach in seminary these days.
Orbital mechanics--handy for the SDI debate.
Geophysics--just accidentally ties into AGW.
Chemistry--foam cups (remember those) and the ozone layer.
I don't know how they get any sleep.

In my experience working with clergy and committed laity on various issues, I was reminded of the substitute teacher who got hold of the lesson plan fifteen minutes ahead of class. And tried to stay one page ahead of the class.
Or didn't.
9.10.2008 4:21pm
josh:
Paul Lakasiak

"the critique appears on a website called "InsideCatholic.com". He's writing about issues of importance to Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, its just plain silly to bring up Falwell, Robertson, etc within that context."

Please see the quote from the article I provided at 11:30 above. The article is a total of 10 paragraphs long and is filled with comments like the above quoted paragraph that indicate an argument toward all clergy, not just Catholics (regardless of where published). I'm confident he would disagree with your assertion that the issues addressed are only "of importance to Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church." Thus, it's hardly silly to bring up the other clergy.

But let's suppose he was only addressing the Catholic church. Why still would it be silly to want to equate the same view to other clergy? I understand Hoosier's point about his criticism being leveled only at Phleger's alleged disregard for Catholic dogma, but don't some of the propositions in that dogma apply to Protestant teachings as well?
9.10.2008 4:22pm
LM (mail):

None of this year's Catholic presidential candidates (Sam Brownback, George Pataki, Rudolph Giuliani, Joe Biden, Wesley Clark, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson) earned a nomination from either of the two major political parties.

Pataki ran for President? Wow, there's a campaign that captured the public imagination.
9.10.2008 4:29pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
His Masses feature rock bands, liturgical dances, almost constant music, but not necessarily any profession of the faith

I'm having a hard time believing that Fr. Pfleger routinely leaves the Nicene Creed out of his Masses. What does he replace it with, Happy Hour? I wish Dean Rychlak had had his essay cite-checked. I could not find any verification for this remarkable statement. Nor did the Dean did not claim he was ever inside St. Sabina's, or has even been in the same diocese for years.

The priest must show us how the church's principles apply to our lives, or the faithful will go to a church that does.
The miracle of Transubstantiation, the sermon comprising a weekly plea for more funds for the parish, are not enough to keep people coming back to Mass, any more. Priests whose message brings parishioners back week after week are extremely rare. We have but one in my diocese, and he attracts people from far beyond the geographic boundaries of his parish.

The church is already riddled with politics. The church already drives people away from the Faith. My sister-in-law quit in disgust a couple of years ago, when at every Mass, her parish showed a video of the Bishop urging the faithful not to vote for pro-choice candidates. This is a matter for individual conscience, not something to be mandated by some single issue dude in a miter. She is now a happy Episcopalian.
9.10.2008 8:41pm
neurodoc:
Josh, it is irrelevant here whether or not Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Hagee, and or other non-Catholic clergy can be aptly characterized as "Agents of Intolerance." Rychlak's expressed concern has nothing to do with tolerance or intolerance as such. Rychlak did not adduce any evidence of "intolerance" on Pfleger's part, let alone rely on any to make his case against this priest. He also said relatively little about Pfleger's politics per se, other than that Pfleger regularly rallied support for Democrats and that this priest is a liberation theology type. We may know or infer from those tidbits that Pfleger is way out there on the Left, or if you prefer he is decidedly "progressive," but that isn't the gravamen of Rychlak's complaint. (It's hard to imagine Rychlak complaining about a priest going too hard Right politically. That, however, may be because those inclined to the Right tend not to wander so far out of bounds theologically, and because the Left-leaning priests must greatly outnumber the Right-leaning ones, though it wasn't always so.)

Rychlak's is upset that Pfleger wanders freely off the reservation in the direction he, not the Church, chooses, and in doing so he isn't following the "chain of command." Still more importantly, he sees Pfleger's liberation theology (not any "intolerance" in your sense) as not within the Church's Magisterium. None of this has any application to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Hagee, or non-Catholic clergy, with no central authority, you might see as "Agents of Intolerance." In other words, it's a Catholic thing, which we non-Catholics largely watch from the sidelines.

[Hoosier, do I have it right?]
9.11.2008 2:10am
josh:
neuordoc:

Your response still ignores the following paragraph of the link, which comprises 1/10 of the entire article:

"In addition to being a problem for the Church, when a priest gets too involved in politics, he can also offend the government. Like most charities, churches are tax-exempt, and donations made to them may be deducted from the donor's income taxes. Donations to political causes, on the other hand, are not deductible. If a church ventures too far into politics, it can lose its tax status. Churches can engage in educational efforts -- even "get out the vote" drives -- but they are not supposed to advance particular candidates or parties. When they do, the government may respond."

I think the "in addition to being a problem for the Church" demonstrates that the author is raising concerns "in addition" to his concerns about just the Church. Maybe I'm reading too liberally.
9.11.2008 1:30pm
Jay Myers:
Josh: It may have been clearer, albeit no more correct, if he had referred to parishes instead of churches. He was not speaking of churches as in The Catholic Church or The Church of Latter-Day Saints. He was referring to churches in the sense of St. Mary's on the corner (don't ask me what she's doing there!) and Holy Trinity on the other side of town.
9.12.2008 2:15am