Pfleger supporters call for priest’s reinstatement to his parish: ‘Bring Father Mike home for the holidays’
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, longtime pastor of St. Sabina Church, was removed pending investigation of a sexual abuse allegation from more than 30 years ago.
Supporters of the Rev. Michael Pfleger, longtime leader of St. Sabina Catholic Church and the target of a recent sexual abuse allegation, called for the reinstatement of the beloved pastor Thursday.
“Restore Father Pfleger to St. Sabina immediately,” said Andrew M. Stroth, an attorney in Auburn Gresham. “There is zero evidence.”
Pfleger, 73, was removed from St. Sabina, 1210 W. 78th Place, last month after an accusation of sex abuse more than 30 years ago was announced by Cardinal Blase Cupich.
The accusation comes less than two years after Pfleger was reinstated when another investigation cleared him of wrongdoing in unrelated accusations. Pfleger has vehemently denied the latest accusation in a letter posted on his church’s website.
Pfleger has pastored St. Sabina since 1981, becoming one of Chicago’s most well-known voices against gun violence and leading peace marches that routinely draw hundreds of people.
The South Side priest’s latest accuser is a man in his late 40s who claims Pfleger sexually abused him twice in the late 1980s during choir rehearsals, according to the man’s attorney, Eugene Hollander. The abuse allegedly happened in the St. Sabina rectory.
At a news conference Thursday outside the Chicago Archdiocese headquarters at 835 N. Rush St., Stroth claimed an independent investigation of the alleged abuse found no evidence.
“All we have are these old words,” he said.
Stroth, a civil rights attorney who said he took an interest in the case because it has affected the St. Sabina community, spoke surrounded by dozens of Pfleger’s supporters from the church and the Auburn Gresham community who held signs calling for Pfleger to “come home.”
A spokesperson for the archdiocese said Thursday, “The archdiocese does not comment on pending or current litigation. The archdiocese takes every allegation seriously, and a thorough and impartial process serves everyone’s interest.”
“The accusation is an impossibility,” said Cory Williams, Pfleger’s executive assistant. “There were always chaperones and parents to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen.”
Williams said that the group appreciates that the archdiocese is taking the allegation seriously but removing the priest was excessive. “The process is flawed,” he said.
“It’s like they’re guilty before they can stand trial,” said Kendrea Atkins, 45, who said she’s known Pfleger for 20 years and works for an organization he helped found for former felons.
Between Halloween and the new year, Pfleger usually participates in a number of charity events in the community that haven’t gone as well in his absence, the Auburn Gresham resident said.
She said she hopes that he can be reinstated by Thanksgiving or Christmas.
“Bring Father Mike home for the holidays,” she said.
Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.