Despite calls for an expedited process and threats of withholding funds from the Chicago Archdiocese, Cardinal Blase Cupich says that he is committed to a full and thorough investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made against Fr. Michael Pfleger, who remains on leave pending the outcome of that investigation.
Cupich spoke to NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern on Monday, discussing the accusations that led to Pfleger being asked to temporarily step aside from his ministry at St. Sabina earlier this year. In all, three individuals have levied accusations of sexual abuse against Pfleger.
Even with parishioners at St. Sabina pushing for a conclusion to the investigation, Cupich says he is committed to letting the investigation run its course, and says he is keeping a distance to help maintain his independence.
“I have to be independent, so I’m staying out of it completely,” he said.
Cupich says the archdiocese is not yet ready to wrap up its investigation into the allegations against Pfleger, a long-time priest who has become well-known for his outspoken and often controversial activism against violence in the city of Chicago.
“Since it’s out of my hands at this stage, and I’m not going to in any way interfere or put pressure on anybody, it will take as long as it takes,” Cupich says.
Pfleger and his attorneys have vehemently denied the allegations of sexual abuse.
Recently, parish officials at St. Sabina voted to withhold their monthly assessments to the Chicago Archdiocese until a decision was made in the Pfleger investigation. Those officials say the assessments tend to run around $100,000 per month, with $13,000 being earmarked to go directly to the archdiocese. Most of the rest of that money goes toward covering insurance and other expenses, according to the cardinal.
“The assessment they’re talking about is really the reimbursement that covers their obligations to their employees for health insurance, but also their liability insurance,” Cupich explains.
Cupich says that the archdiocese is attempting to work through issues with those at St. Sabina, and he also expressed concern that some donors who have contributed money to the parish in the past are no longer doing so.
“I think that’s very sad because our ministry is not about a person. It’s about the mission itself,” he says.
Cupich also wants to make sure that others who may want to speak out about potential abuse feel free to do so.
“Yes, it’s painful that these accusations come to light after so many years, but nonetheless we still have to treat people with respect, no matter how long ago it was and we want to continue to do that,” he says.