Should Catholic Church Take Action Against Father Pfleger for Defending Rev. Wright and Farrakhan?

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Continuing now with our lead story: a Catholic priest standing up for Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan.


FATHER PFLEGER: I know Jeremiah Wright. I don't think you do. I don't think Bill O'Reilly does. I know him. He's a good man, he is a loyal American, and he's a prophet of the Gospel. And I'm not allowing people to call him a racist, anti-American or bigot. Him nor Louis Farrakhan because neither of them are.


O'REILLY: All right. Joining us now from Philadelphia, Dr. Larry Chapp, a theology professor at DeSales University. And here in the studio, Flavia Colgan, a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. Both are Catholics.

All right, Flavia, should the Catholic Church take action against this guy?

FLAVIA COLGAN, HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL GRADUATE: I don't think so. When we have Catholic priests and nuns being, you know, persecuted and tortured in China because of their faith, when we have rampant anti-Catholic bias around the world, so many things that affect the Catholic Church, forgive me for not feeling that this man or this priest is really worth the time to even be denounced.

If anything, I think having a Catholic priest who's a showboater and using the word "damned" is a thing that actually offends me the most. We're not supposed to be evangelicals, where there's big personalities in the church is priest should be interchangeable. And the fact that he's even making the news is a bit of a problem.

O'REILLY: Well, I mean, but when you're going to endorse a Farrakhan with a long history of anti-Semitic rhetoric, I think the Catholic Church has got a problem here on that.

COLGAN: I think the bigger problem is that some Catholics and Christians still think that Jews are responsible for killing Jesus when Pope John Paul, God bless him, his late soul, that he said obviously very clearly not. And I believe, and as the Gospels say, reject the sin and not the sinner.

O'REILLY: All right.

COLGAN: And I also believe that it's possible for someone to spew hateful, terrible things, like Farrakhan, who I'm not here to defend…


COLGAN: any way, nor Reverend Wright. It is possible, since they're made in the image and likeness of God to still be good people, like he said…


COLGAN: ...and still spew those hateful things. That is possible. I believe Jesus thinks that's possible as well.

O'REILLY: That's a pretty liberal attitude, I have to tell you, boy.

COLGAN: Well, do you think Jesus is a liberal, because I think he would believe that?

O'REILLY: I think people have to be held accountable for their actions. Doctor, how do you see this?

DR. LARRY CHAPP, CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN: I think exactly the opposite. I mean, Jesus was accepting of prostitutes, but he was not accepting of prostitution. And we need to be able to make these kinds of moral adjudications.

These guys are in fact purveyors of hate. Louis Farrakhan has been an anti-Semite, vitriolic anti-Semite for decades. And for a Catholic church to provide a platform for this man, I find to be absolutely revolting and disgusting.

He is a purveyor of what I call the politics of racial resentment. So is Reverend Wright. And the politics of racial resentment is precisely what the ministry of Jesus was against. Many of his fellow Jews during his time preached politics of racial resentment against Samaritans, against Romans and so forth. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan precisely to counteract that issue. "Who is my neighbor? Everyone is my neighbor." The message of the Gospel stands foursquare against the idea that we reduce the Gospel to a politics of racial resentment.

O'REILLY: All right, look…

CHAPP: This priest should be sanctioned.

O'REILLY: When you say he should be sanctioned, you got the cardinal in Chicago, doesn't like this guy anyway. By the way, this priest adopted two children. I mean, he's, you know, really operating on the margins of the church. Not to say that's a bad thing. I'm not. But if you were the cardinal, doctor, you would do what to this guy?

CHAPP: I'm not certain, because I'm sure the archdiocese of Chicago probably has a policy in place with regard to what to do with inappropriate speakers invited to a Catholic parish. I think that whatever the sanctions are, they ought to be there. I don't think he should be removed from his parish or removed from priesthood or anything that severe. But some kind of reprimand here is in order and so because the damage.

O'REILLY: Doesn't this damage not only the Catholic Church, it just does a lot of damage into a very sensitive area. It's the Farrakhan thing that's the real explosion here.


O'REILLY: I mean, Wright, he's an eccentric and he doesn't like his country, but you have a lot of priests who sympathize with Wright. You know that. There's a lot of Catholic priests, and there are a lot of clerics and other religions, who sympathize with Wright. When you start to promote an out and out guy like Farrakhan, a real militant, and say that he is a great man of God and he is a great leader, you got a big PR problem.

CHAPP: Oh, I completely agree. It is to me more than Reverend Wright. The issue is Louis Farrakhan. Because I don't know that much about Reverend Wright, but I have followed Louis Farrakhan for decades. And he is a purveyor of anti-Semitic hatred. And a Catholic church should not be a platform for that.

O'REILLY: All right. Now you wouldn't sanction this priest at all? If you were the cardinal, you couldn't be the cardinal by the way.

COLGAN: Right.

O'REILLY: Because you're a woman.

COLGAN: Right.

O'REILLY: But if you were the cardinal's adviser, you would say let him go on and say all this stuff? You'd allow that to happen?

COLGAN: Interestingly enough, Bill, and I want to thank you for taking this discussion past politics, and I hope that we get to have another segment about this, because I think these issues of race and so forth are very nuanced.

I actually ironically agree with about 99 percent of what Dr. Chapp just said. I also think there is a differentiation between Reverend Wright and Farrakhan. I think what they both have said are despicable and I don't agree with them. But again, from a doctrinal and even from a spiritual standpoint, No. 1, I don't believe the Catholic Church, which has tremendous continuity, has been around for thousands of years, that one random priest is going to take down the Catholic Church.

O'REILLY: No, but it hurts them.


O'REILLY: Come on, Flavia. It hurts them. You know it hurts them.

COLGAN: OK. But what I feel is that every soul, and I truly believe this, is a beautiful soul. I believe that.

O'REILLY: Now that's nice. All of that's swell.

COLGAN: No, it's not — it's bigger than that.

O'REILLY: And I'm glad you believe that, but this is a bigger picture.

COLGAN: With all due respect, I'm here to defend, as horrible as that may seem to many, and I don't mean to offend at all, and I want that to be clear, I'm here to defend Father Pfleger. And the reason…

O'REILLY: Well, you're crazy.

COLGAN: Hold on. You're not going to let me finish?

O'REILLY: …because this man's in a position of responsibility.

COLGAN: Let me finish then. I'm taking a big chance to come on this show to do this, which I appreciate the segment. So let me explain why.

O'REILLY: You've got 30 seconds to do it.


O'REILLY: All right? And that's all you got.

COLGAN: I appreciate 30 seconds. I'm defending it because I believe that it is important for us to have a dialogue and understand where this unacceptable disgusting hate that does not help the greatest country in the world, which is America. And it's important for us to understand that people like Farrakhan, who do great damage to this country, are also capable for the Million Man March and other things like Jeremiah Wright does in his community of also doing positive things.

O'REILLY: All right. But there's always a dichotomy.

COLGAN: It's not black and white.

O'REILLY: Every villain in history did good things as well.

COLGAN: Hitler didn't do anything great, and he mass murdered tons of people.

O'REILLY: All right.

COLGAN: And it's not analogous.

O'REILLY: There you go. All right, doctor, Flavia, thanks very much.

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