Editorial: Investigation of Rev. Pfleger demands fairness and thoroughness, not a timetable

Chicago Sun-Times [Chicago IL]

March 1, 2021

Michael Pfleger is one of the most remarkable Catholic priests in Chicago history. He leads one of the most vibrant congregations in the city, having first helped breath new life into St. Sabina’s Church 40 years ago. He has been a crusader for social justice.

We admire Pfleger for this. Always have and always will.

At the same time, Pfleger now stands accused of sexual abuse. Two brothers allege they were victimized by Pfleger when they were minors more than 40 years ago.

We take all such accusations seriously, as of course we must. There is no statute of limitations on moral responsibility for sexual abuse. There is no expiration date on the emotional toll of abuse.

Our hope, then, is that an ongoing investigation by the Archdiocese of Chicago will be impartial, complete and in no way rushed. As important as it is to get to the bottom of the matter — to the extent that is possible after 40 years — it’s equally important to do so in a way that instills the most possible public confidence. In fairness to both Pfleger and his accusers.

We have great respect for the parishioners of St. Sabina’s who have rallied to Pfleger’s defense. They know better than anybody what a force for good he has been. But we would hope the parish’s decision, announced Sunday, to stop paying monthly assessments to the archdiocese until the Pfleger investigation is closed does not put undue pressure on the archdiocese’ investigators to end their work early — before every knowable fact is known.

Late last week, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services concluded its own investigation, saying allegations that Pfleger posed a risk to children were “unfounded.” But it is unclear how deeply DCFS — which was most interested in whether Pfleger poses a current risk — delved into the accusations of abuse 40 years ago.

It would be irresponsible for the archdiocese, which has an unfortunate history of failing to take seriously allegations of sexual abuse, to cite the findings by DCFS as an argument for ending its own investigation.

As painful as this controversy has been for all involved, we agree with the archdiocese that “justice demands a thorough and impartial process” for which there can be “no time frame.”