May 30th, 2008
04:32 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama takes heat from Catholic League over Pfleger

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Pfleger has apologized for his comments."](CNN) - The Catholic League sharply criticized Barack Obama Friday for his ties to controversial Catholic minister Michael Pfleger, saying in a statement the Illinois senator should have severed ties with him long ago.

The criticisms come after wide circulation on the Internet of Pfleger's recent sermon, in which he mocked Hillary Clinton for becoming teary-eyed before the New Hampshire primary in January.

"And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,'" Pfleger said during a sermon Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. "And [Clinton] said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!' "

Barack Obama said Thursday he was "disappointed" in the comments, and Pfleger later issued an apology for the remarks.

"Why is it that of all the wonderful Catholic priests in the Chicago Archdiocese, Obama long ago chose Pfleger to hang with?" Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement. "Truth be known, Pfleger has a very troubling history."

“Senator Obama says he wants to bring people together. Then why does he choose as his clerical friends people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger?" Donohue also said. "They are two peas in a pod, both equally divisive, separated only by the color of their skin.”

The Catholic League is an influential non-partisan organization that says its mission is to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics "whenever and wherever they are threatened." The League was an early critic of the Rev. John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor whose endorsement was sought by John McCain but later repudiated.

Pfleger is a priest at St. Sabina's Catholic Church on the south side of Chicago. He had served on the Catholics for Obama committee until recently and the two have known each other for 20 years. As a state senator, Obama once directed a $100,000 grant to a community center affiliated with Pfleger's church.

Watch Pfleger's controversial comments here.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (621 Responses)
  1. Hal

    What is the matter with CNN. To call the Catholic League non-partisan is a sham. They are an ultra right wing organization and far from non-partisan. When CNN quotes an organization they should give an accurate description of their politics.

    May 30, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |

    AGAIN????????? ANOTHER PASTOR??????




    May 30, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  3. supporter

    I only wonder if Obama felt the same way the people in the church did on the video when he was at that church in which he is still a member of ? I bet he could tell you he never seen anyone that was in the church when he was there. But then again Obama has only been a Christian for a few years for his political gain so he wouldn't know any better or should I say he says he is ?

    May 30, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Chi4Obama

    I'm from Chicago, and don't know a whole about Father Flager. Nor do I really care to.

    But I do know that my tax dollars are being spent on a never-ending war in Iraq. And that my salary increases, are not keeping up with never ending rises in the price of gas / food. These are the real issues that I care about....

    May 30, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. bob in LA

    From now on and 4 years from now- one one gets to talk politics except the candidates. No staff, releatives or pundits.
    Lets let American make up thier minds about people based on who they are, not what otehrs say. Only complete biographies can be released by the press.
    I've gone form liking Obama, to not particularly trusting him back to "he's the candidate" and all theidiots around him need to shut up.
    If Hillary had has this as a rule- she would be the nominee

    May 30, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. donna

    we are sick ofObama Mechille and hisChurch

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Cynthia

    Senator Obama can't be held responsible for everything that someone says – that just doesn't make sense. Pfleger apologized for it and we all should just move on. I have a question, what in the statement wasn't true? Senator Clinton is white, she is married to Bill, when the election started out most people thought that Senator Clinton would blow Senator Obama out of the water by Super Tuesday (she and Bill did as well) but that did not happen, she did tear up at one of her gatherings. There were also instances where Senator Clinton's people said things that should not have been said as well as Senator Clinton – remember the white blue collar comment and the RFK comment.

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. OMG

    ARE YOU F'ING KIDDING ME? IF religion doesn't get the HELL out of politics we are seriously more DOOMED than we already are in this political system.

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. 314me

    Okay, so if this Catholic priest is known for being so divisive, why was there not a public outcry from other Catholic priests? Yes, this man's words are disturbing; however, besides the "white" part of the comment, it appears pretty accurate. His views are obviously not the views of Obama, and he did not speak on behalf of Obama. Lets focus on substance rather than sensationalism.

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Allan

    The Catholic League is "non-partisan" and protects "free-speech rights"? Come on. Bill Donahue is as political as they come, strongly Republican, and is very divisive amongst Catholics. Surely someone at CNN is aware of this – Donahue manages to get some quote in the main stream press about every three days, and invariably they are supportive of Republicans and critical of Democrats. This is just a convenient way for him to get a press clipping.

    And then to state that because Donahue was critical of Hagee almost makes it seem like it's surprising that he would be critical of Obama.

    Please be reasonable here. Donahue isn't the hatemonger that Hagee is, but he is surely partisan.

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. Kenneth Lindsey

    Why should he take heat for this ?

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. Robert

    And this is unity for all Americans! God help us! The problems will have just begun if Obama get's the nomination!

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. David, Santa Rosa, CA

    Well, aren't Catholics looking for a reason (justification) to be unsupportive of Obama? After all, he's for that sinful stuff like "right to choose," and that HOMO-sexuals marrying each other thing, and that crazy science garbage! And get this... the guy knows, and believes in the constitution! That's just craziness right there... I don't care who ya're. Next thing you know, he'll be spewing sacreligious stuff like.. seperation of Church and State and he's probably gonna want to be helping poor people and kids. Of course, you KNOW what his middle name is don't you? And don't ge me started on what he and his pastor believe!

    End of sarcasm...

    May 30, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. independent voter

    Obama says he stands for change!

    Well, he really has a lot to change himself.

    It seems that prior to his running for president, he did just what he saying he will NOT do once he is elected. My, my, he is no better than the "Washington group." In fact, he is worse.

    Let's see how you obama supporters spin this one!

    Can't stand his wife. She is so very annoying. Yuk!

    I am one of the millions of voters who will not, in any circumstance, vote for obama!

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  15. Dj

    If the man is SO TERRIBLE, a more important question is:

    Why doesn't the Pope or the Chicago Archdiocese sever themselves from him? Why do they allow him to continue be a Catholic priest?

    or maybe,

    Is is worse than the pedafiles Priests? The outrage towards them isn't nearly as bad...

    or maybe,

    Is this just because it's a Black Man running for president that this is SUCH A HUGE issue?

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Penelope Cochran

    This is so true what the priest says. But tell me how Barack Obama is involve. He goes to the church, I don't remember him writing the Sermon. Boy some people are willing to make Hillary win, 'IT DOES'NT MATTER IF SHE LOSE:

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. alan

    Obama has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with this, PERIOD!!!!

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. T

    If you look at the YouTube video, although the words may have offended some, the message was about the "Privilege of Whiteness". As many people of color (world-wide) know exists. That reality is the basis of the Magna Carta and the belief in Manifest Destiny. Do some research and check your soul.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Diane Panama City Fl

    My question back to the Catholic League would be why aren't they rebuking Monsignor Lisante for using prayer at a recent Republican fundraiser in New York to mock Senator Obama?

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Beverly, NYC

    The catholic league should concern itself with priest who molest children. And cleaning up the inmage of the catholic church. Just beacuse the priest speaks his mind and doesn't go with the company line now he's troubled. Mr. Donohue are you a closet Hillary supporter. At least Barack goes to church!

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  21. Veterans for Hillary

    That's no surprise, and this is close religious friend of Obama, for over TWENTY – 20 years, but once again the media will turn a blind eye because some how Obama is the chosen one, the nominee. We will lose the 2008 general election.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. Debby

    As a Roman Catholic I never heard a priest preach like this from a pulpit. This really isn't Obama's fault its the Catholic Church for not defrocking this loon years ago.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. OkMom4Obama

    I think any Catholic priest needs to chill including the one that said those things about Hill. I'm an Obama supporter but felt his words were so unnecessary. Now, as far as it being a Catholic priest, be careful, I don't think they can say anything after the years of molestation that has gone on in the church. Admonish the priest and chill.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Caryn, Washington DC

    Oh please. You can't hold Obama accountable for Father Pleger's comments. Besides, aside from the "white" remark, everything that he said was ABSOLUTELY TRUE!

    Her sense of entitlement is exactly what has lost her this election. If she had any sense she would admit her faults and stop blaming everyone else for her own shortcomings.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. Codiwan

    The catholic league is complaining about a catholic priest? If what he said is so bad, kick him out.

    On the other hand, it's hard to listen to people gripe about racism while being racist. I'm whitey, the blue eyed devil, but am not racist like Obama's reverends seem to think.

    I will add another thing. The next time some pin headed religious leader (falwell when alive, graham, wright, any of them) wants to way in on politics and public policy, and foriegn policy, etc., we should tax his church.

    May 30, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
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