CHICAGO—Father Michael Louis Pfleger’s reinstatement by the Chicago Archdiocese was met with relieved and hopeful reactions after a four-month battle following accusations of child sexual abuse from over 40 years ago was put to rest.
Father Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side and longtime activist against violence and police brutality in Black and Brown communities, was advised to step down in early January after allegations by two Texas brothers surfaced of allegations of child sexual abuse. One of the two accusers blamed the abuse for his drug addiction and incarceration and demanded $20,000.
Blase J. Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago wrote in an announcement May 24, “The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations. Having given careful consideration to their decision, which I accept, I now inform you that I am reinstating Father Pfleger to his position of Senior Pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina. effective the weekend of June 5-6, 2021.”
In February of this year the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services determined that a report of “suspected child abuse or neglect” related to Father Pfleger was “unfounded.”
St. Sabina church will be holding the official reinstatement celebration June 6 in conjunction with the Feast of Corpus Christ which is a Roman Catholic festival in honor of Jesus Christ.
“I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been angry, I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been discouraged. I’m a man of faith but I’m also a human being,” Father Pfleger said during a news conference May 24. “I am innocent of those charges and accusations, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to God and to all those who prayed for me and supported me during this painful time,” he continued. “Let’s get back to work, and let’s kick the devil’s butt. We’re ready!”
Supporters of Father Pfleger were full of joy over the Archdiocese’s decision.
“I thought it was long overdue because I thought it was unfortunate that he was caught in that maze of false allegations,” Illinois state Senator Jacqueline Collins who has been a member of the St. Sabina church for 35 years, told The Final Call.
“It’s very hard to reclaim your dignity after character assassination so we have to be very diligent to restore his name and the legacy of his work in the community. What he brought back to the community was a level of recognizing and celebrating the talents and beauty of what it means to be an African American.”
Cory Williams serves as executive assistant to Father Pfleger. “I’m pretty ecstatic for the reason that he is back home and where he believes God wants him to be. I know he has a ton of things he wants to do, so I’m pretty excited,” he told The Final Call,
“I’ve been a member of the church [since] 1984-1985 so I’ve borne witness to what he’s done in the community and city, to the fight against selling drugs, the gun violence, but in the course of that I’ve seen how this neighborhood, how it’s transformed.”
Mr. Williams added, Father Pfleger has been a pillar in the advancement of Black and Brown communities in Chicago through his activism and investment in resources to build the communities. “I believe that his presence is needed, necessary and I believe the community welcomes him back with open arms,” he continued.
After the announcement, many supporters took to social media to express their relief and excitement. “AMEN AMEN AMEN. We need more men of God like him. He has NEVER been anything but 100 percent transparent and has always stood up for what he believes in even if it got him into trouble with the church,” wrote Tammy Schrader on Facebook.
“People talked about and lied on Jesus and people will do the same about you as some people lied on Father Pfleger but in the end faith and truth prevails,” wrote Louis Nelson.
Walker M. Kimbrough on Twitter wrote, “This makes me happy. Father Pfleger is one of the realest men I know. I have always enjoyed hearing him and talking to him. We need him back on the front line.” For more information, visit saintsabina.org.