UNIVERSITY PARK | The Rev. Michael Pfleger, activist and long-time pastor of St. Sabina Parish on Chicago's South Side, said Monday he believes all levels of government fail to provide aid to the people they technically are supposed to serve.
Speaking at Governors State University, Pfleger told students who are considering work within government, “Only get into it if you intend to dismantle it.”
The Catholic priest, whose outspoken demeanor on issues related to urban life and the poor has gained him national notoriety, said government officials seem to cause problems than they solve.
He was critical of the Illinois General Assembly, which recently considered a range of issues, including gay marriage, expanded gambling in the state and allowing residents to carry concealed firearms.
“The only one of those issues that they had the guts to address was concealed carry,” Pfleger said. “Even then, what they wound up doing was to approve a measure that was so watered down that they should have just done nothing. It was embarrassing."
He noted the Legislature’s refusal to pass measures that would have restricted the size of ammunition magazines. Gov. Pat Quinn wanted such a measure, in response to the shooting deaths of more than 20 children in Newtown, Conn., but it failed.
“Connecticut’s legislature responded by changing their laws,” Pfleger said. “But in Illinois, the senators and representatives from southern Illinois said, ‘It’s not our problem.’ So nothing happened.”
He also lambasted Chicago officials in the wake of recent battles concerning the closing of public schools, saying everybody was concerned about winning the political brawl.
“The children lost out,” he said. “We’re robbing them of a chance at an education.”
And Pfleger was just as critical of the parochial school system maintained by the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese — including the school run by his own parish, which he says charges such high tuition that many people who’d like to send their children there can’t afford it.
“Poor people have been abandoned by the Catholic school system,” he said.
Pfleger also addressed the federal government, criticizing Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., for recent comments he made about having federal law enforcement authorities crack down with force on Chicago street gang members.
“To solve the problem of gangs by locking them up? How dare you?,” Pfleger said. “Why not try to help them up so they won’t succumb to gangs.”
Not even President Barack Obama escaped his ire. He said the president has not done enough to benefit lower-income people in this country.
“I love Obama even though I disagree with him on many things. I see it as my right to challenge him to do better,” Pfleger said, adding that partisan opposition has prevented him from accomplishing more.
“I have never seen a president more denigrated than the way the opposition talks about President Obama, his wife and his children,” Pfleger said. “It’s inexcusable.”