Fr. Michael Pfleger, senior pastor of St. Sabina and St. Sabina Academy in Chicago, has been removed from his ministry after the archdiocese received a letter alleging that the priest sexually abused a child over 40 years ago, Religion News reported.
“Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false. Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed” Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of the archdiocese of Chicago wrote in a letter to the St. Sabina community.
The allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Cook County State’s Attorney. The person making the allegation has been offered the services of the archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Ministry and the archdiocese has begun its investigation, the letter stated.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and encourages anyone who feels they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee to come forward,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.
Fr. Pfleger, 70, has been criticized for often causing controversy, and for being abrasive. But he has also been praised for turning around a historically Irish parish in St. Sabina’s, ending Bingo and “Vegas Nights” there and starting more Christian-based programs, for a community that experienced white flight decades ago but is now seeing a rebirth in its predominantly black community.
Fr. Pfleger, who has been the pastor of St. Sabina’s since 1981, is well known for his political activism, having taken part in protests against gun violence in the past. He also criticized then-Senator Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries in 2008, and was suspended for a month in 2011 by then-Cardinal Francis George after insisting he’d leave the Roman Catholic Church before he’d leave St. Sabina to take an assignment at a nearby Catholic high school. He has also criticized rappers who glorify violence in their music. according to NBC 5 Chicago.
Fr. Pfleger agreed to cooperate fully with the cardinal’s decision to remove the senior pastor from ministry as the investigation is ongoing. Fr. Thulani Magwaza, associate pastor of St. Sabina’s, will fill Fr. Pfleger’s role during the investigation.