Father Michael Pfleger, the longtime pastor at St. Sabina Church who has been removed from his parish
following revelations of a decades-old sexual abuse allegation against a minor, released a brief statement today thanking people for their support and saying he was “devastated” by the allegations.
“I can’t possibly respond to the hundreds of texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since yesterday,” Rev. Pfleger, 71, posted on Facebook this morning.
“I am devastated, hurt and yes, angry, but I am first, a person of Faith, I Trust God. 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 … ”
Also today, activists gathered for a news conference near the church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, at which they praised Pfleger’s decades of work on the South Side.
“Every plague that has plagued this community, Father Michael Pfleger has been on the front lines,” said Eric Russell, executive director of the Tree of Life Justice League. “When the ravage of AIDS hit this community, it was Father Michael Pfleger who stood with compassion about black people who were sick.”
Russell praised Pfleger’s ongoing work against gun violence. “Our blue-eyed soul brother — he is a Moses of this time,” Russell said.
Leonard Richardson, 84, a deacon at St. Sabina and a member of the church since 1965, said hearing the allegations was “like a kick in my stomach. It’s very, very painful. I’m still processing it.”
Richardson said he’s texted Pfleger but has not heard back. He said he doesn’t think the allegations have any “merit.” Asked if he’d ever heard allegations of a similar nature connected to Pfleger, he said: “No, no, no, no.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich had announced “the difficult news” in a letter to the St. Sabina community Tuesday, saying he has “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.”
Cupich said Pfleger agreed to his request and will live away from the parish during the archdiocese’s investigation. The allegation has also been reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Cupich said.