Block Club Chicago
March 1, 2021
By Jamie Nesbitt Golden
Leaders of the South Side church say the financial strain is “hurting their mission to serve” as longtime pastor Michael Pfleger is sidelined from his ministry.
Auburn Gresham – St. Sabina Church leaders will no longer send the church’s offerings to the Archdiocese of Chicago, a move they hope will expedite the ongoing sexual abuse investigation into Father Michael Pfleger.
The St. Sabina parish council announced Sunday its members will withhold its $100,000 monthly assessment to the archdiocese, citing “strained finances.” The money will not be used for any ministry or current programming, and instead will be set aside “to be paid at the conclusion of the investigation.”
“This has jeopardized our ability to serve. We’re asking parishioners to continue to support our church with their tithes and offerings as they would normally to continue the work of the ministry to the community at this time,” council leaders said in a statement.
Pfleger, a popular, controversial leader, was asked to step aside from his ministry in January as the archdiocese announced it would be investigating a child sexual abuse allegation against Pfleger dating back more than 40 years.
Cardinal Blase Cupich did not reveal any details about the alleged abuse at the time. But a second allegation was soon reported and two brothers, whose identities have not been disclosed, came forward to say they had accused Pfleger of yearslong sexual abuse when they were children in the 1970s, dating back to his earliest days as a priest.
The brothers, now in the 60s, said through their attorney that neither had known of the other’s alleged sexual abuse until the younger brother came forward to the archdiocese.
St. Sabina leaders and community members have vociferously stood behind Pfleger, organizing various protests and actions in support of him. He’s led St. Sabina since 1981.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Thomas said the organization will not rush its investigation or a decision on the issue. Giving special treatment to Pfleger or any priest facing abuse accusations “undermines the credibility” of the investigation’s outcome, Thomas said.
“Every case is handled in a professional, impartial and consistent manner. Justice demands a thorough and impartial process and there is no timeframe in which we ‘should’ make a determination,” Thomas said in a statement. “ … These matters take the time they take to reach a just conclusion.”
In a separate investigation, the Department of Children and Family Services announced Friday it did not find any evidence Pfleger posed an ongoing threat to children. But archdiocesan officials made it clear that decision was separate from the brothers’ allegations, and did not clear Pfleger of those claims or enable him to return to his ministry.