WMAQ - NBC 5 [Chicago IL]
June 7, 2021
By Christian Farr
Fr. Michael Pfleger has been the pastor of St. Sabina Church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood since 1981, most widely known for his activism against violence in the city.
One day after presiding at his first Mass at Chicago’s Saint Sabina Church since being reinstated as senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger on Monday opened up about the sexual abuse allegations that kept him away from the parish for five months.
Cardinal Blase Cupich announced late last month that Pfleger would be reinstated after an investigation by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago’s review board found that allegations of abuse against the longtime pastor were unfounded.
In January, the Archdiocese asked Pfleger to step aside from his ministry after receiving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. The accuser’s sibling came forward later that month with a second allegation of abuse.
Pfleger said he felt helpless when the allegations emerged, leading to his temporary removal from the South Side church.
“You’re on this gag order, and all you keep saying is you’re innocent,” he said. “So you have all this stuff that you’re reading and hearing, and then you’re saying you’re innocent. It’s real lopsided information coming out.”
In February, the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services wrote in a letter to Pfleger that the agency had determined that after an evaluation, a report of “suspected child abuse or neglect” was “unfounded.”
In March a third man accused Pfleger of sexual assault beginning more than 40 years ago.
“My whole life is just flipped upside down in a moment,” Pfleger explained. “So I’m in shock, and I’m numb.”
Members of Saint Sabina, where Pfleger has served as pastor since 1981, came to his defense when the sexual abuse allegations emerged and have stood by him since.
“I’m glad to have my pastor back,” one parishioner said. “We love him, and we trust that he was going to get through this.”
The longtime priest, who held his first service Sunday after being cleared of the allegations, said he has to move toward forgiveness of his accusers.
“Let me forgive them. Let me pray for them and give attention,” he said. “I can’t control what was done by them, by media, I can’t control that.”
As Pfleger embraced those who attended Mass at Saint Sabina Sunday, he wanted to make certain that people should not feel sorry from him.
“I’m okay,” he stated. “Keep praying for me, but more importantly than praying for me… or as important… let’s join arms. Get in the fight.”