Father Pfleger, a longtime advocate for Black, Brown and poor communities, addresses the media during a protest in Chicago. Photo: Haroon Rajaee

CHICAGO—Saint Sabina Catholic Church, members of its congregation, and supporters are standing firmly beside Father Michael Louis Pfleger in the aftermath of an accuser’s allegation that the longtime priest sexually abused him decades ago. The accuser, now in his 40s and whose name has not been released, came forward in mid-October. He alleges he was abused twice during the church’s choir rehearsals in the late 1980s. He is being represented by Chicago attorney Eugene Hollander.

Father Pfleger, a longtime activist, has advocated for Black, Brown and poor communities and has been a constant voice condemning racism, police brutality, and economic injustice for over 30 years. He was asked to step down on October 15 while the Archdiocese of Chicago investigates the allegation.

In a letter to Saint Sabina Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago stated that Father Thulani Magwaza will serve as administrator of the church while the investigation is ongoing. The Final Call called the Archdiocese of Chicago and public relations representative Susan Thomas said that there is no timeframe for the investigation but that the Archdiocese of Chicago will be timely in releasing updates.

In a statement released on October 15 on Saint Sabina’s website, Father Pfleger stated: “Let me be clear—I am completely innocent of this accusation. While I am confident that the new allegation will also be determined to be unfounded, this process is so unfair and painful to me and to the community I serve. It seems like most of my ministry I have spent fighting to stay a priest and to continue to work for justice, and to serve the good people of St. Sabina’s and our community. I cannot express how difficult, disruptive, and painful this process is to me and to those who are close to me.”


Supporters of the longtime clergyman were quick to defend him. In 2021, the same type of allegations were brought against Father Pfleger by two brothers who were represented by Atty. Hollander. Father Pfleger was cleared of the accusations and reinstated by the Archdiocese of Chicago in May 2021.

The Final Call contacted Mr. Hollander’s office but did not receive a response by press time. The Final Call contacted Father Pfleger who declined to comment at this time but stated he would in the future.

During a two-and-a-half-hour service on October 16 at Saint Sabina that was live-streamed, Father Tom Walsh of the Chicago Parish Community directed congregants to face the camera and said: “Father Mike, this is your army! These are your warriors.” Parishioners in the pews could be seen wearing shirts that said, “We stand with Father Pfleger.”

The activist priest has formed many bonds and friendships in the Black community and has been commended for his advocacy work in areas of violence prevention and other programs his church provides to underserved communities.

Associate Minister at Saint Sabina Kimberly Lymore told The Final Call that because the accusation arose in mid-October, it could impact the church’s community service efforts for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. “We’re doing a wait-and-see. We expect this to be expedited again, but this could affect our outreach,” she said.

“This is just another blow to him, but again he’s standing on faith and he knows the truth will come out.”

Ryanne Burnett, who told The Final Call that she has been a part of the St. Sabina family and community for over 30 years, heard of the news on social media.

“I am very saddened by this because he is for the people and the community,” she said. “He has helped my family on several occasions. He provides food, clothing, [and] jobs for the community. His church is a safe haven.”

Ms. Burnett said she believes the accusation will not yield any merit and that Father Pfleger should remain strong as he did during the 2021 allegations. “I hope that this passes and am sorry he is going through this. Just like before, it will pass,” she said.