WBBM - CBS 2 [Chicago IL]
May 24, 2021
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cardinal Blase Cupich is reinstating Rev. Michael Pfleger as pastor of Saint Sabina parish, four months after he was asked to step aside from his duties, after an Archdiocese review board cleared him of allegations of sexual abuse.
Pfleger will hold a news conference Monday afternoon at 3:00 to address announcement.
“In accordance with our policies for the protection of children and youth, the archdiocese Independent Review Board assisted by our Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review and outside investigators conducted a thorough review of the allegations. The Review Board has concluded that there is no reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” Cupich wrote in a letter to the Saint Sabina Parish.
Pfleger was removed from St. Sabina in January, after two brothers accused him of sexually abusing them decades ago. A third accuser later came forward.
After the review board cleared Pfleger, Cupich said the pastor will be reinstated at Saint Sabina effective the weekend of June 5-6.
Back in January, the outspoken clergyman and civil rights activist said he was “devastated, hurt and yes angry,” after he was asked to step away from ministry as the Archdiocese of Chicago investigates a child sex abuse claim against him from more than 40 years ago.
“I can’t possibly respond to the hundreds of Texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since yesterday,” Pfleger wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. “I am devastated, hurt and yes angry, but I am first, a person of Faith, I Trust God. Please keep me in prayer and the Faith Community of St. Sabina. I have been asked by the Diocese not to speak out at this time. I am Blessed with good leadership and amazing members, whom I love.. Pray also for the person, my life is more than a 40 year old accusation, and on that and my Faith I will stand…The Lord is my Shepherd….. I love you..”
In a March letter, Pfleger complained that the investigation had been going on for more than two months, during which a separate investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has already wrapped up, and during which neither he nor the St. Sabina community has received much information about the Archdiocese investigation or why it is taking so long. He placed the word “investigation” in quotation marks when referring to the probe by the Archdiocese.
Shortly after the announcement that would be removed from St. Sabina during the investigation, the parish community came out in full support and has stood by Pfleger during the ordeal.
Chicago community activists also voiced their support for Pfleger. They said his activism and work to end violence in the Chicago area is still needed.
“We need people like Father Pfleger, who has been a pillar in Chicagoland, and nationally. We need his presence right now,” said Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters Inc.
“We believe wholeheartedly that he will be exonerated fully, and he will be right back here pastor here soon,” said activist Ja’Mal Green.
Pfleger has long been a vocal priest – advocating for the underprivileged and against violent across Chicago. He has also stirred up controversy – in 2008, he was suspended for mocking Hillary Clinton as she ran against Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary.
The Sabina family has always stood in support of Pfleger, even when the Archdiocese tried to reassign him.
Pfleger wrote that he is innocent of the allegations against him and believes that the Review Board and the Cardinal will conclude that the allegations are unfounded and restore him to ministry and St. Sabina.
Two of Pfleger’s original accusers – two brothers – shared their story exclusively with CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov. They told her they could no longer keep their secret.
The brothers who made the earlier accusations said they were each around 12 or 13 when the sexual abuse started 40 years ago. Both said Pfleger’s prominent standing in his community kept them speaking out until now.
A third man said he was 18 when an alleged incident with Pfleger occurred, but he said he came forward after hearing the brothers’ claims.
Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Pfleger to step aside from the ministry back in January as he announced the “difficult news” that the Archdiocese is investigating a claim that Pfleger sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago.
“Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish while this matter is investigated,” Cupich wrote in a letter to the St. Sabina community.
This is a developing story.