Though he must remain apart from his South Side parish, Rev. Michael Pfleger on Monday said he plans to continue to minister to the wider Auburn Gresham community in other ways as the Chicago Archdiocese investigation into sexual abuse claims against him continues.
In a letter to parishioners, Pfleger said he “will seek other ways and opportunities to minister to the Auburn Gresham community and continue outreach while this process seemingly drags on. I will let you know soon where and how I will be doing this.”
Pfleger, reached Monday via text message, said he’d be continuing his outreach by “working with community organizations.”
He also said he hadn’t heard from the archdiocese regarding his plan.
An archdiocese spokeswoman, in an email, said: “We don’t have a comment except to say a thorough investigation benefits the accused as well as the accuser and the Independent Review Board is continuing to work on this and the other cases before it.”
Pfleger, 71, has been temporarily removed from his ministry at St. Sabina as the archdiocese investigates the abuse claims.
In the letter, Pfleger said he requested to meet with the archdiocese review board that’s looking into the allegations on March 20 but was told the board was “not prepared to meet” until they investigate further.
“I know that I cannot emotionally or spiritually continue to remain isolated in an apartment waiting for this board to do its job,” he said.
“While this is disappointing, painful and harmful to the St. Sabina and Auburn Gresham communities, and me, I will not let this board or the process destroy all that we, together, have built,” Pfleger said in the letter.
Pfleger’s letter was dated Sunday but was sent out Monday, according to Marilyn Katz, who runs a public relations firm and is working on a pro bono basis with Pfleger.
The letter was sent out to more than 150 parishioners, community leaders and elected officials, Katz said.
Three men in recent months have claimed Pfleger abused them decades ago.
The first abuse claim was made in January, by one of two brothers who came forward.
A third man came forward earlier this month with allegations of abuse.
This wasn’t the first time Pfleger had floated the idea of working outside the Catholic church. In 2011, when then-Cardinal Francis George contemplated transferring him from St. Sabina, possibly to oversee Leo High School on the South Side, Pfleger told an interviewer he would “look outside of the church” if reassigned.
That prompted George to suspend Pfleger, saying: “If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish.”
They later made up, and Pfleger was reinstated. He said at the time, “I love being a Catholic priest and I love being in the church. I come back committed to God, to the church and the prophetic tradition.”
On Monday, Katz insisted that exiting the faith isn’t on the table for Pfleger.
“He’s not considering leaving the church,” she said.