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Cupich accuses St. Sabina of ‘inappropriate and intimidating tactics’ toward Pfleger abuse investigators

The Chicago cardinal blasted the tactics as “offensive and an injustice,” saying they could hamper others seeking to report abuse — and could force the probe to start over.

Cardinal Blase Cupich | Sun-Times file photo
Cardinal Blase Cupich
Sun-Times file photo

Cardinal Blase Cupich penned a final warning to St. Sabina administrators last week saying he would assign the investigation of Father Michael Pfleger — who has been accused of sexually abusing three boys over 40 years ago — to another diocese if the St. Sabina community didn’t end their “inappropriate and intimidating tactics” to influence the outcome.

“Once again this week, there was an organized effort through the St. Sabina website to employ inappropriate and intimidating tactics to put pressure on the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Independent Review Board (IRB) as the case of Father Michael Pfleger is being processed,” Cupich wrote in a letter addressed to Rev. Thulani Magwaza, who is serving as lead pastor at the South Side church in Pfleger’s absence.

Cupich blasted the tactics, specifically an effort to “flood the archdiocese’s phone lines dedicated to receiving calls from victims and civil authorities,” as “offensive and an injustice,” saying they may discourage others who are trying to report abuse and hamper authorities’ ability to reach the archdiocese.

He encouraged Pfleger’s supporters to express their feelings about the pastor in a letter or email, but said the “tactics of intimidation ... must immediately cease.”

“If they do not, I am prepared to move the case of Father Pfleger to the Independent Review Board of another diocese, which means the process will have to begin anew,” Cupich said.

“There will be no further warnings,” Cupich said.

Magwaza did not respond to a request for comment, but Cupich’s letter to Magwaza, dated April 13, has been posted on the homepage of the St. Sabina website.

Pfleger was accused in January of sexually abusing two brothers over 40 years ago when he began his work at St. Sabina.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has since said it found no evidence there was a current risk from Pfleger, although the archdiocese has emphasized the DCFS investigation did not look into the brothers’ claims. Since then, a third person came forward accusing the pastor of abusing him when he was 18 years old, and the archdiocese investigation has continued.

In a statement posted to the St. Sabina website in March, Pfleger’s lawyers said accusations against the longtime pastor are “wholly inconsistent with Father Pfleger’s character and the recollections of the thousands of young men and women who have known Father Pfleger for decades, including the accusers’ friends during the years that these alleged incidents purportedly occurred.”