You have to see this to believe it.

From the Chicago Sun Times, a video of Fr. Michael Pfleger preaching at Barack Obama’s church last Sunday.

There’s a very good response to Pfleger’s fuming over the America blog, courtesy Jim Martin:

Father Pfleger’s words were not only offensive; they also went against standard practice for Catholic priests, for at least two reasons.

First of all, priests, as well as members of religious orders, are always supposed to avoid endorsing political candidates. In 2007, the U.S. Catholic of Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that read, in part, “A Catholic organization may not directly or indirectly make any statement, in any medium, to endorse, support, or oppose any candidate for public office, political party, or PAC.”

Why is this? It is not because the church is not concerned with the political world. (Cf: Popes Paul, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) Rather, it is because the role of the preacher is primarily to preach the Gospel, that is, to exegete, or “break open” Scripture and, in doing so, to help Christians to form their consciences.

Even Jesus studiously avoided directly commenting directly on political matters. In the Gospel of Matthew, when asked whether the Jewish should pay taxes, Jesus recognized the question as a trap. If he said yes, he would be accused, by the Jewish people, of colluding with the occupying Roman authorities. If he said no, he would be accused, by the Romans, of the crime of sedition. Instead he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

True, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus calls Herod Antipas “that fox,” but this is mild. And if pastors are tempted to follow Jesus’s lead here, and issue even a mild critique, they might wait until they’re sinless before they do so.

Then there’s that little thing of tax-exemption. When they hear sermons like Father Pfleger’s, and when pastors and bishops all but endorse one candidate over the other, they critics can rightly ask of the Catholic church, “Is this truly a non-partisan organization?” This is one reason why that instruction from the bishops’ conference came from the Office of the General Counsel.

But there is a much simpler reason why the sermon was so unchristian: because it was uncharitable. Even when confronted the most unrepentant of sinners, Jesus of Nazareth never mocked, but only showed compassion, and gave people the benefit of the doubt. Or, as St. Ignatius of Loyola said in his sixteenth-century classic, the Spiritual Exercises, “Every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it.” That includes Hillary Clinton. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Seeing a Catholic priest belittle another human being, and publicly impugn her motives, from a pulpit was shocking to many people. It seemed fundamentally wrong. And it is, for contempt has no place in Christian discourse.

UPDATE: Thankfully, the Archdiocese of Chicago is none-too-pleased with any of this, and the Cardinal is taking this priest to task:

Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago just issued this statement about Father Michael Pfleger’s ridicule of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a sermon at the church of Sen. Barack Obama, Trinity United Church of Christ, on Sunday:

“The Catholic Church does not endorse political candidates. Consequently, while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning.

“Racial issues are both political and moral and are also highly charged. Words can be differently interpreted, but Fr. Pfleger’s remarks about Senator Clinton are both partisan and amount to a personal attack. I regret that deeply.

“To avoid months of turmoil in the church, Fr. Pfleger has promised me that he will not enter into campaigning, will not publicly mention any candidate by name and will abide by the discipline common to all catholic priests.”

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