‘It’s good to be home,’ Rev. Michael Pfleger tells St. Sabina congregation

In his first Sunday Mass since being reinstated, the Rev. Michael Pfleger ties unfounded sex abuse allegations to forces opposed to his activism.

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The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church plans to bless a same-sex couple from his congregation. Pope Francis this week signaled a change in Vatican policy.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger delivers a sermon Sunday at St. Sabina Church. Pfleger was cleared by a review board of allegations he abused a boy at choir practice in the 1980s.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times (file)

Newly cleared of a fourth allegation of child sex abuse, the Rev. Michael Pfleger delivered Sunday Mass at St. Sabina Church and denounced the “forces of evil” that he said were trying to take him down for supporting causes like gun control.

“It’s good to be home,” he told parishioners.

The priest thanked everyone who supported him amid the latest allegation of sex assault — dating from the 1980s — which the Archdiocese of Chicago on Saturday ruled unfounded. It was the second time in two years he was forced to step away from the pulpit as authorities investigated sex abuse allegations.

Pfleger said the unfounded accusations were a ploy to silence him for supporting gun control and other causes.

“There have been organizations and individuals who have made it their journey, and have told me, they’re going to spend the rest of their life to try and destroy me,” Pfleger said. “I’m used to threats, and I’m used to people hating on me. But I need you to understand, you’ve got the wrong one.”

Community support

Pfleger, 73, said he received messages of support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan.

He’s also had vocal support from parishioners at the Auburn Gresham church.

“I’m glad he’s back,” said Janis McCall-Stokes, a parishioner of 40 years.

Father Michael Pfleger gives a sermon at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger was welcomed by parishioners. “I’m glad he’s back,” said Janis McCall-Stokes, who has been a member of the congregation for 40 years.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

She never doubted Pfleger because her own children had gone through the same choir program the latest accuser had but without problems, she said.

“My children were his Soul Children, and there were always plenty of chaperons,” she said.

Churchgoer Wateka Kleinpeter said Pfleger has attracted false accusers because, “He got a lot of haters. We’ve marched against everything.”

Pfleger’s push for gun control over the last decades has inspired people to take him down, she said. Kleinpeter has been part of the church for 40 years and never doubted him.

“I know him too well,” she said.

In October, Pfleger’s latest accuser — a man in his late 40s — alleged the priest had abused him twice during choir rehearsals more than 30 years ago.

Pfleger was first benched in January of 2021, when a man accused Pfleger of abusing him more than 40 years ago. That accuser’s brother came forward with his own allegations soon after — and yet another man accused the priest of molesting him at St. Sabina.

An archdiocese review board cleared Pfleger of the 2021 claims and returned him to work in June 2021.

Father Michael Pfleger gives a sermon at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.

In January 2021, two men accused the Rev. Michael Pfleger of molesting them as boys. Later, another man came forward with his own allegations. A review board cleared Pfleger.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Pfleger’s sermon drew parallels between what he characterized as a conspiracy to silence him and the biblical story of John the Baptist and the campaign against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The forces of evil have always tried to knock us to the ground,” he said.

Anonymous call

In the middle of his sermon, Pfleger said he had received an anonymous phone call weeks ago from someone who he took to be part of the campaign to defame him.

Pleger said the person told him: “I want you to understand, I’m on the inside of this and understand it’s not about winning or about losing. The money has already been paid. This is about silencing your voice and making you shut up.”

In a news conference after his sermon, Pfleger theorized about the people who he said were trying to take him down: “I’ve been threatened to stop talking about the gun thing. I’ve been threatened to condemn Farrakhan. I’ve been threatened to stop going after this drug issue.”

Pfleger pointed out that all of his accusers have used the same lawyer. He said he saw holes in the stories of the transcripts of his accusers.

“I pray for the people who accused me. I think they’ve been used. There’s no grudges here. But the enemy keeps coming,” he said.

The reverend said he was offered lucrative jobs in his time away, and had “made more money than I ever made in my life,” but remains committed to St. Sabina and its causes.

“You got to do what you believe God’s calling you to do,” he said.

Asked if he thought the vocal support for him could have a chilling effect on church sex abuse victims coming forward, Pfleger said: “I would hope that no one would feel like they don’t come out.”

He said false accusations hurt real victims. “It’s like crying wolf,” he said.

“All I can deal with is Mike Pfleger and say that I was innocent,” he said. “You’re never going to see me arrogant about coming out about, ‘Oh, I won.’ That’s not me. That’s not Jesus.”

Father Michael Pfleger wipes his face at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.

“The forces of evil have always tried to knock us to the ground,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger told congregants Sunday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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