CHICAGO, IL — Father Michael Pfleger has been reinstated at St. Sabina Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Monday, as church leaders found “no reason to suspect” the longtime pastor is guilty of sexual abuse. The Catholic priest was asked to step down from the ministry in January when two brothers accused Pfleger of inappropriate sex abuse stemming from incidents that occurred decades ago when they were underage. A third man came forward with allegations in March.
In a letter to the St. Sabina parish, Cardinal Blase Cupich said Pfleger can return to the pulpit the weekend of June 5, coinciding with the Feast of Corpus Christi. Cupich said he’s asked Pfleger to take the next two weeks to “prepare himself emotionally and spiritually to return” to his ministry, and Pfleger has agreed to that. Pfleger, a prominent anti-violence activist addressed supporters and the media on Monday.
Eugene Hollander, who represents the brothers, said in a statement they are “shocked and deeply disappointed” in the church’s decision. “Both of the brothers who made these allegations were extraordinarily credible. They provided detailed accounts of the sexual molestation as well as information that only these victims would be aware of. My clients not only corroborated each other, but both clients underwent polygraph examinations and passed,” Hollander said. Hollander also said the brothers were “proud that they came forward and delivered their truths” despite the outcome.The claims made against Pfleger shocked the Auburn Gresham community he’s ministered to for more than four decades. After Pfleger was removed from his post, he said he was “devastated, hurt, and yes, angry.” Members of the St. Sabina cabinet and community defended Pfleger while the allegations were investigated, saying they stood by him. As the weeks wore on, they also put pressure on the Archdiocese to quickly wrap up its investigation, withholding its $100,000 monthly payments to the central office. In March, Pfleger said he was unwilling to “wait in silence” and was preparing to come back to his ministry.
“I am innocent of the charges made against me and continue to believe that the [archdiocese] Review Board and the Cardinal will see the truth, conclude that these uncorroborated allegations are unfounded, and restore me to the ministry at St. Sabina,” Pfleger said in a statement at the time. “In the meantime, I know that I cannot emotionally or spiritually continue to remain isolated in an apartment waiting for this Board to do its job. While I hope and pray that the Review Board will work a little harder and more promptly to conclude their investigation, I will no longer wait in silence.”
In the decades he’s served as St. Sabina’s pastor, Pfleger has been a pillar of the predominately Black communities to which he ministers, and has drawn attention from across the city and country for his anti-violence work. He’s been a vociferous activist, protesting gun violence and gun laws, alcohol and tobacco marketing targeting children in minority communities, and racial injustice, among many other issues.