Chicago priest Michael Pfleger investigated for sexual abuse

The prominent religious leader known for his activism is being accused of abusing a minor over 40 years ago.

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A popular Catholic priest in Chicago known for his social justice activism has stepped down after an investigation into alleged sexual abuse has been launched against him.

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According to the New York Times, Rev. Michael Pfleger faces accusations of abusing a minor over 40 years ago. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago shared the news with members of St. Sabina Church, where Father Pfleger is the senior pastor. He published a letter on Tuesday confirming the Archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review was notified the day before.

The allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office before being referred to the Chicago Police Department. Neither organization has shared details of the offense.

In the letter, authored by Cupich, he addressed the church community, advocated for patience and privacy, and suggested that any assumption of guilt or innocence should be held.

“I write to share some difficult news about your senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger. In keeping with our child protection policies, I have asked Father Pfleger to step aside from ministry following receipt by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago. Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cupich wrote.

“Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish while this matter is investigated.”

Pfleger Catholic Church Chicago abuse
Rev. Michael L. Pfleger of Chicago delivers the keynote address during the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church with King’s widow Coretta Scott King (R) and his son Dexter Scott King in 2003. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

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Larry Antonsen, a leader of the Chicago chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, shared with the Times that he is proud of anyone who comes forward about abuse, even if decades later. He himself has been in the same shoes. The news outlet reported Antonsen is a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a religious order priest.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that have gone to their graves because they couldn’t deal with the guilt and the shame.”

Though no specifics have been released, Kimberly Lymore, the associate minister at St. Sabina, expressed her faith in his innocence in a news conference, according to the Times.

“We boldly stand behind our senior pastor, we do not believe the accusation,” Lymore said according to the report. “Pastor Pfleger’s 45 years of ministry speaks for itself. We hope that the investigation will be swift and impartial, and we know he will fully be exonerated.”

In a Facebook post, Pfleger expressed shock about the allegations and appreciation for the support he’s received.

I can't possibly respond to the hundreds of Texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation…

Posted by Michael Pfleger on Wednesday, January 6, 2021

“I can’t possibly respond to the hundreds of texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since yesterday. I am devastated, hurt, and yes, angry, but I am first, a person of faith, I trust God,” he wrote.

“Please keep me in prayer and the Faith Community of St. Sabina. I have been asked by the diocese not to speak out at this time. I am blessed with good leadership and amazing members, whom I love. Pray also for the person, my life is more than a 40-year-old accusation, and on that and my faith I will stand…The Lord is my Shepherd….. I love you….”

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