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. Amy

    So Barack Obama takes the heat from the Catholic League for what a Catholic minister said? Shouldn't the minister be taking the heat for what he said? Oh right he can't....that's called accountability.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. Shane

    Its so crazy that lunatic preachers are playing such a big role in this campaign season! Wright, Hagee and now this nut phlegler? This is the problem I have with religion. There is no balance in it and it breeds divisiveness because of absolutisms. I for one wish we had an atheist President! Someone who didnt even believe in God personally but didnt care if anyone else did. Im still For Obama but this church is full of narcissistic ,self-aggrandizing atten-grabbers catering to dumb audience.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. Lamar

    You must be kidding, come on people...focus on the real issues! The people who believe would have never voted for him in the first place. I am a McCain supporter and "ALL" of the preacher stuff is just stupid!

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Bill

    It is not only the remarks made by this racist catholic priest that concerns me but also the reaction of the congregation who are laughing, whooping ,clapping, waving their hands, and enjoying the sermon. Then the black who introduced the priest thanks God for the message and the messenger with applause from the congregation. It proves that racism is not a just a white thing, blacks are the biggest racist in our country. At least most whites are truly trying to come to terms with their racist past. Do you think our equal rights laws would have become law without the support of the majority whites. You judge a man by the company he keeps, especially the religious ones. I have deep concerns about Obama. I do not like McCain because he is the same as Bush. I really wish Hillary would get the Democratic nomination so I can vote for her. Otherwise I’m left to choose between to undesirable men, one a war monger, the other a black racist. I would choose McCain, racism is more divisive.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Paul

    Leave Father alone, there is not a comparison between him and Rev Wright who is the one filled with hatred

    I love Hillary, and know she will win the nomination, because she is the one who can take back the White House.

    Proud to be a Roman Catholic I must deffend my Church while supporting the best candidate .. Hillary Clinton

    Hillary 08- yes she will!!!

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  6. Renee' McDuffie

    Why don't HRC sat down. Everyone knows she has lost and she is desparate. I don't see why everybody keeps playing her childish game. If Father Pfalger is that bad then why don't Mr. Donohue suggest that he be fired. You all suppose to believe in God why are you all judging people. At least he goes to church that is more than what HRC does.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  7. Penny from California

    This is just why Barack Hussein Obama is a big danger to our country. There are just too many problems with him. God help us!

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  8. AL

    Another controvertial clerical friend? Obama must like/ or like to be around firy, controversial people. It may be admiration or just intrigue by their way of delivering a message or both. In any case, what is most important is that we determine if a message is wrong or right and I believe he the capacity to choose wisely.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  9. mj - florida

    Oh Please! The Catholic league criticized Obama for not severing ties with a Catholic priest before he made these incendiary remarks! The Catholic Church hasn’t severed ties with Pleger, why not criticize them.
    What a joke.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. Eddie

    Wow. There is a lot of white HATE in Obama's church.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. Dori in AZ

    Mr. Donohue, to our collective disgrace, the ENTIRE Roman Catholic Church has a very troubling history. Yet, there have been countless loving, generous, self-sacrificing, & heroic Catholics throughout the centuries, so we have managed to maintain a balance. Before attacking Senator Obama for any relationship he has with Father Pfleger (or anyone else, for that matter), you have many other issues within the Church that require your attention.

    Mr. Donohue, Continue to remove & help to appropriately & legally adjudicate those pedophile priests we still have within our parishes & all those who have provided safe havens for them knowing their crimes; provide appropriate evaluations of those considering the priesthood to eliminate pedophiles before they wear the garments; finds ways to encourage the Church to allow women to be fully functioning members; find ways to allow married priests to serve; find ways to eradicate the horrible treatment of the GLBT & divorced communities; finds ways to bring about peace, to combat ignorance, poverty, illness, discrimination in all its ugly forms, etc.!!!

    Our Church has a long road ahead in terms of accepting human beings & other creatures as God apparently intended us to do. So far, our record is only so-so. Mother Teresa would remind you, "Do small things with great love." And, I imagine the good Lord Himself would discourage you from casting stones....

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  12. James, SC

    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.

    This is why Hagee gave his letter to the Catholic League. They wouldn't even defend their own. Sick, sick, sick. I wish I were catholic so that I could dump this crapshoot organization when they support Hagee and turn on their own.

    May 30, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. Ronny Woods

    If Hillary is the Democartic nominee, she's got my vote. If Obama is the Democratic nominee, McCain's got my vote. A racist like Obama doesn't deserve to be elected to any responsible position.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. Kendall

    The things that came out of that mans mouth makes my stomach literally turn. I can hardly watch the clip on TV, and this definitely doesn't help his case, and it is a blatant sexist and racist tirade.

    If it is even possible, I think this is worse than the Rev. Wright sermons.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. Xavier

    I find it odd that Donohue is holding Obama responsible for the comments of a CATHOLIC priest! Donohue admits this priest has a history of divisive preaching, so why, as the head of the Catholic League, did't he speak to the Catholic church years ago about about him?!?

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  16. JRC

    Is this the best "they" can do? Obama has no control over what other people say. He wasn't even there. Give me a break.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. Tito

    Oh yeah... how dare Obama be friend with someone who said something negative. Somehow this is Obama's doing? I'm confused. If nothing else this gives me one more reason to dislike the Catholic League. I'm Catholic myself, by the way.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Deena

    yet another shady devisive character in obmas corner what this guy total to? oh yes I know 666 . Obama is scary and I fear his presidency.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. Dissed in CA

    We expect more like this to come out in the days and months to come. It is only a matter of time before BOs character is truly vetted and found to stink. HRC character has been tested, nothing new to reveal just the occasional flub.

    Change and inexperience was Bush's message as well.

    HIllary 08

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  20. Craig

    Each new day, brings more Obama Drama !

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  21. Sylvia Johnsen

    In 62 days Obama made 8 different account on his relationship with Reverend Wright. It won't be as many with Father Pfleger, but remember there is nothing the father says that hasn't come out of the Obama-campaign. If we agree the popular vote is a tie, I do not understand why superdelegates should reward Obama for running the most negative campaign I've seen in years.

    It's easy to win if you push out the opponents before election day. Obama is a thug, he's done it before. Why gamble in an election Dems cannot afford to loose, on a man as disagreeable as Obama. There is an experienced change-candidate in Hillary Rodham Clinton in play.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  22. Steve Wilcox

    As if the Catholic Church in American doesn't have bigger issues to address..............

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. Eddie

    Father Pfleger must be having an identity crisis.

    May 30, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Wow, talking about NOT helping.
    Well, let's hope after 3 weeks, this goes away because
    Obama didn't say this or sanction this (as fasr as I know he didn't sanction this)
    this doesn't really have anything to do with policy
    it has nothing to do with running the country

    But, people, if you're for a candidate, it's best to just let the candidate speak. That way, s/he can be held accountable for their own words and not yours.
    Geesh, with friends like this, McCain doesn't have to do any work at all.

    May 30, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. Aaron in Arizona

    Excuse me...did you notice that the preacher is white?

    Time after time people, are we going to Judge him over what Obama says or what others say??

    May 30, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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