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Theology Thursdays: On Catholicism, Racism, Father Pfleger And Minister Farrakhan by Cedric Muhammad (June 10, 2001)


The majority vote of the Southside Catholic Conference to deny the entrance of a Black Catholic Church, St. Sabina, into its youth sports league on grounds that its neighborhood is too dangerous to play in has sparked a heated discussion in Chicago over faith and race. At the center of the controversy is Rev. Michael Pfleger, the White pastor of St. Sabina's who, for years, has challenged the Catholic Church to become more responsive to racism, and a man who has a very unique relationship with Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Father Pfleger, as he is commonly known, believes that the vote against St. Sabina's entrance into the sports league was racist at its core and he has publicly stated as much. Others have vociferously countered that Father Pfleger's charge is unfounded and that the decision to keep St. Sabina's youth out of the sports league is a reasonable one based solely on concerns for the safety of the current members of the league, who are predominately White. They cite statistics detailing a relatively high level of crime in the St. Sabina's neighborhood as evidence to support their claim. In response, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago police department officials have stated that they believe that the St. Sabina neighborhood is safe enough to host youth sports and that additional provisions can easily be arranged to increase the level of security in the neighborhood.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese has publicly questioned the vote of the Southside Catholic Conference and released a statement that challenged the basis of the decision keeping St. Sabina's out.

A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times covered the church's position. It wrote:

Officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago said Thursday that the actions of some of the intramural league's members could be construed as racist.

"If the reason reported--`fear by certain coaches and parishes for the safety of their children'--is the sole reason for the decision, it is not an acceptable reason," the archdiocese's leaders wrote in a two-page statement.

"Such a reason presupposes that all black neighborhoods are intrinsically less safe than all white neighborhoods and that white parents and children have more reasons to fear for their safety in the black community than black parents and children do in the white community," they wrote.


Even former Chicago Bear, Defensive Tackle, Christopher Zorich, weighed in on the matter.

In a letter to the Chicago Sun-Times Chris Zorich wrote:

As a member of the St. Sabina family, I am terribly disappointed in last week's Southside Catholic Conference 11-9 vote denying St. Sabina entrance into its athletic conference. As a native Chicagoan, words cannot express my disgust.

Having been a professional athlete and person who has spent the past 20 years in sports, I tried to look at the situation strictly from the athletic side; however, I could not. Athletics play an important role in millions of children's lives. Sports can provide discipline, encourage team-building skills, build confidence and introduce positive influences our youth need to develop as individuals. Along with coaching athletics, we have the awesome responsibility to "teach" our children, too. I ask what lesson is taught by denying St. Sabina admission to the Southside Catholic Conference? The conference's pastors and officials have "taught" them that perpetuating bigotry, discrimination, prejudice and racism is OK, and stereotyping is acceptable. Cardinal Francis George's recent pastoral letter on racism is the antithesis of their actions.

As members of the Southside Catholic Conference, they should be embarrassed. Voting to exclude their children from playing with those of a different race, by using the thinly veiled excuse that St. Sabina's neighborhood doesn't meet their standards is unconscionable. If we as adults are role models for children, what message is being sent? And we wonder who "teaches" our children to hate.


The St. Sabina/Southside Catholic Church controversy has again, caused many to question the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Black community. Many observers outright wonder why the Catholic Church itself could not ensure the safety of any of his members - Black or White - in the youth sports league. Some have argued that if Black and White Christians can be separated because of fears of crime then the Church has failed to overcome not just crime in the neighborhoods in which its members live, but also racism. The thought in the minds of many, is that if a member of the Catholic body is suffering from a certain condition, then the entire body should come to address that condition until it ceases to exist. Why then could not Catholics come to the aid of St. Sabina and make the neighborhood secure rather than simply vote to keep St. Sabina out? Indeed, it now appears that a second vote will take place that may overturn the outcome of the initial decision. While the issue of St, Sabina is local in nature, the problem of perceived racism in the Catholic Church is national in scope and international in its implications.

In 1997, in a section of Philadelphia largely populated by Catholics, racial tensions rose over the disrespectful treatment received by Blacks, women in particular, at the hands of Whites, men in particular. Eventually, Philadelphia Mayor Rendell asked Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Farrakhan to come to Philadelphia and help him resolve the problem. He helped to arrange an interracial, interfaith event at which Minister Farrakhan would be the keynote speaker. The Minister accepted Mayor Rendell's invitation and spoke at the event. The initiative was viewed as an overwhelming success and helped to cool tensions as well as create a forum where religious and political leaders could dialogue about Phialdelphia's community problems.

Interestingly, a major group that did not attend the interfaith/interracial event was the Catholic Church of Philadelphia. And surprisingly, while members of the Jewish community did complain about Mayor Rendell's decision, it was the Catholic Church that was most vocal in its official opposition to Minister Farrakhan's involvement.

On a Meet The Press appearance the weekend prior to the event in Philadelphia, Minister Farrakhan was asked about the Catholic opposition to the event. The Minister replied that he was not surprised and pointed out the Catholic Church's historical silence on slavery and a variety of issues where Blacks were concerned. He also pointed out how ironic the opposition was in light of the fact that professed Catholics or nominal Catholics were involved or were responsible for the racial problems in Philadelphia that he was coming to help resolve.

Many see a similar but not identical scenario in what has taken place with St. Sabina. While Cardinal George in Chicago has made some strong pronouncements about racism recently, the Church, in the estimation of many, has moved lethargically in terms of actions that would help resolve racial tensions in Chicago and which became even more evident with the recent controversy. Some read a duplicitous nature into Cardinal George's comments and even those of the current Pope, who has made international condemnations of human rights violations and apologized for the sins of the Church but who has not apologized to Black people in America for the Church's sanction and involvement in the crime of slavery perpetrated upon them. Nor has the Pope apologized for the manner in which its portrayal of all Biblical figures, including Jesus, as White has contributed to the Black inferiority complex, around the world, notably in Africa and Latin America.

It is so interesting to see Black Catholics around the world with photos and portraits of a White-skinned Jesus in their wallets, in their cars and hanging on the walls of their homes and in the buildings which are home to their all-Black congregations. This is especially interesting in light of the fact that the Pope privately pays homage to a Black Madonna and the Bible describes the Son of Man/ Messiah as other than White-skinned (Revelations 1:15; Daniel 7: 9).

Father Pfleger, for years, has been active in addressing not just racism perpetrated upon the Black community but he has also dealt with the complex of Black inferiority that, in part, was fostered by the teaching and work of the Catholic Church. Instead of making powerful verbal announcements about racism from a comfortable distance, we think that the Catholic Church should consider following the example of Father Pfleger, who does more than just talk about ending the racial divide.

We conclude by quoting from This Is The One by Minister Jabril Muhammad. His writing and quotation, nearly 10 years old, provides a picture of the example of Father Pfleger, who has actually attempted to apply theology to the ending of racism in his sphere of influence.

Our reference from This Is The One also provides an introduction into the relationship between Father Pfleger and Minister Farrakhan, which we think, in many respects, provides an instructive example for those who sincerely seek Black - White harmony.

Minister Jabril Muhammad writes:

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad recognized the good acts of White people, when they did them. He did say, on more than one occasion, that maybe about one out of a thousand White persons, really cared about the terrible condition of Black people. Nevertheless, he did display balance in his public and private comments about White people - contrary to the view of many.

Certainly, many would take exception to this. Nevertheless, the proof is in the face of everyone daily who cares to look. (White Shriners are mentioned in four of the six written lessons that were produced during the time Master Fard Muhammad was working in the mid west - America's heartland - with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They shall be rewarded for the good that they do. He even made clear their opportunities for the future -God is just and very merciful.)

An example of a white man, who exemplifies an excellent spirit is Father Michael L. Pfleger, of the Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois.

In an article, which appeared in the Chicago Defender, October 27, 1992, there is a report of an event, which was very significant.

Saint Sabina celebrated the Black family. Among those who lent their talents to this occasion were Mr. Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee. Toward the close of the event, Father Pfleger unexpectedly called the Honorable Louis Farrakhan to address the audience, which may have numbered 1,500 or more.

Part of what the Honorable Louis Farrakhan stated was that Father Pfleger was one of the: "best examples of love, charity, brotherhood and love for Black people than any spiritual leader he has ever met."

This was not something that he saved for a public occasion. He has said this before, and in private. The article in the Chicago Defender continued, with Minister Farrakhan's words:

"This pastor sees a need in the family to love ourselves and he broke ranks with tradition and put a Black Christ before you and gave you root in yourself, brought our culture into a church that was designed to make us into the image of other than what we were." explained Farrakhan.

Calling the Black family a disintegrating one, Farrakhan said, "it is not the whole family that it should be - that it once was." He added, "sometimes when God allows a family to break down it is because he has a better family in mind. Not a family of blood but (one) of spirit."

Farrakhan called for racial harmony and said that as a white man, Pfleger "made you to love yourself and gave us spirit that we did not have, and now, we must grow beyond just hue and the color but grow into the spirit of that Christ - that there will be one faith, one love, one baptism, and Muslim and Christian and Jew can sit down together and not argue about who is God or where is God - but we know that God is one."


Later in the article mention is made that Father Pfleger praised Minister Farrakhan and criticized the white media for its false portrayal of him. The article continued that he condemned "...the system that wants to keep shackling and keep people down, but he {Minister Farrakhan} continues to speak the truth."

"I thank God for this man every day. I pray for him every day," Pfleger said of his friend. He called the minister a man of "truth, justice, a man of fairness, equality. A man who is doing more about change than anyone walking this earth today," Pfleger said.

Later on in this chapter, we'll take a somewhat longer look at what emanates from the heart of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, which strikes men and women of all races and nations: touching their hearts in a manner that turns them to God, and/or His Christ like never before.

Father Pfleger is one of a huge and growing number of persons who has been favorably touched by the light of God issuing from the heart of the Minister of Christ: the Honorable Louis Farrakhan. And as I've indicated, these people are not just Black.


***

While events in Chicago, on the surface, appear to be about sports and crime, Father Pfleger's involvement and example reveals that so much more is at work. It also points to the fact that something more than improved police work is necessary to produce the eradication of America's racial divide.

To what extent is the Catholic Church and the Pope of Rome willing to go to help Blacks and Whites in America overcome the racial divide?

Would they ever consider following the example of Father Pfleger?

Would Jews ever consider following the example of the former Mayor of Philadelphia, a Jewish man, Ed Rendell?

If not, why not?

In light of the history of the last 1,000 years including the circumstances surrounding the Crusades, Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of the Western Hemisphere, and even most recently, the role that the current Pope played in the ending of communism, which included his advising President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and even, according to Carl Bernstein, involved his receiving briefings from the CIA; it can be reasonably be said that the Pope of Rome is the most influential spiritual guide of the White race.

Why then do the Pope of Rome's theological pronouncements and public guidance rarely pertain to America's racial divide, even though that divide has been the most volatile and potentially explosive problem in the most powerful country ever established by Whites - the United States of America?

In addition, if it can be argued that racism is a spiritual disease, then the Pope's apparent silence is even more peculiar.

And finally, if slavery and God's opinion of it is an important aspect of the Biblical narrative, why haven't the Pope and Jewish Rabbis, for that matter, publicly discussed the relevance between the history, condition and experience of America and the Blacks and Whites who live within her, with what is written in Genesis 15:13-14 or the book of Joel Chapter 3: 1-7, for example?

Father Pfleger has heard Minister Farrakhan's detailed explanation of these verses and their relevance to America's race problem. And Father Pfleger is not alone among White religious leaders who have heard Minister Farrakhan's articulation of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's teaching on this subject.

In fact, in 1998, the Reverend Billy Graham, who has advised the last several US presidents, ran up to Minister Farrakhan and kissed him on his cheek and told him that he frequently listens to his tapes. He did so at a private gathering hosted by Time magazine, which brought together only individuals who have appeared on the cover of that magazine.

Today, it is President George W. Bush who publicly credits the Rev. Billy Graham with persuading him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour.

In 1993, Rev. Robert Schuler broke down into tears after hearing Minister Farrakhan speak, in part, about the relationship between what is written in the Bible and its connection to Blacks in America, Blacks in Africa, and the treatment that both have received at the hands of Whites in America and Europe. This happened in Africa at a meeting hosted by the late Rev. Leon Sullivan. Minister Farrakhan would subsequently meet privately with Rev. Schuler and help him through a problem that the White pastor was having.

Both of these powerful White Christian pastors have, since their one-on-one encounters with the Muslim leader, spoken negatively about Minister Farrakhan in public settings, broadcast by the media. Why?

Have they really discarded their initial reaction to and opinion of Minister Farrakhan or did they say what they did, to the media, for the benefit of public consumption in order to perpetuate a certain type of popular opinion?

Why is the private reaction to Minister Farrakhan by very knowledgeable White preachers and theologians one way, and the public reaction, another? Why was it the same, in many respects, with Minister Farrakhan's teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who Pope Paul VI once requested a meeting with?

Why does the ADL, a group of Jews, vehemently opposed to Minister Farrakhan never, ever publicly comment on his scriptural teachings on the relationship between Blacks and the Torah and its bearing on Black, White and Jewish relations today?

Why does the mainstream media, which often sits through entire lectures of Minister Farrakhan, rarely report or quote the portions of his talks that directly connect the subject of Jesus to America's racial divide? They do not even deal with it in their religion sections.

Is a charade, hoax, or game being run on the entire world regarding the subjects of slavery, a chosen people, the Messiah, racism and America's place in Biblical prophecy?

What can help overcome such deception, if it exists?

All of this relates to Father Pfleger and why the mainstream media does not publicize his relationship with Minister Farrakhan.

Editor's Note: This Article Is A Re-Print From A June 10, 2001 Deeper Look Written By Cedric Muhammad and Published At BlackElectorate.com http://www.blackelectorate.com/)



Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, May 31, 2007

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