CHICAGO (HPD) — A Catholic priest who gained national fame as an activist must step away from his ministry while allegations that he sexually abused a minor decades ago are investigated.
The move was announced just over a year after another inquest cleared the Rev. Michael Pfleger of allegations of sexual abuse against children.
In a letter sent Saturday, Cardinal Blase Cupich said Pfleger was asked to resign from his church, the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor decades ago.
Pfleger “has agreed to cooperate fully with this request,” Cupich said, adding that the archdiocese has notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and law enforcement officials as required by archdiocese policy.
The accuser is a man in his 50s who said Pfleger molested him twice in the late 1980s during choir rehearsals at the Saint Sabina rectory, according to a statement issued by a spokesman for the man’s attorney. Eugene Hollander. The lawyer did not elaborate on the accusations.
In his own statement to the South Side parish he has led for decades, Pfleger said he has done no wrong.
“Let me be clear: I am completely innocent of this allegation,” he wrote, adding to his parish that he was confident the allegation would be “determined to be baseless” and that he would be allowed to reinstate.
Pfleger, who is white, leads a church in Chicago’s largely black, low-income Auburn Gresham community. His activism attracted the attention of filmmaker Spike Lee, who based a character played by actor John Cusack in the 2015 film “Chi-Raq” on Pfleger.
Pfleger has made national headlines for his activism on a variety of issues, opposing cigarette and alcohol advertising, standing up to drug dealers and drug paraphernalia stores, and leading countless protests. He has even been sued for his activism and on one occasion stated that “it has resulted in jealousy, attacks and hatred”.
In May of last year, four months after Pfleger was asked to step aside while similar allegations involving a minor in events that occurred more than 40 years earlier were investigated, the archdiocese reinstated him after the investigation found “insufficient grounds to suspect” that he sexually abused children.