Parishioners at Holy Angels Church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood are stunned after former Pastor George Clements were publicized on Thursday.
“It’s hard to believe, and it’s sad, and it’s hurtful,” Leroy Ledbetter, a member of the church, said.
Father Clements served as pastor at the church for over 20 years, but is now facing allegations that he sexually abused a minor while serving in that role back in 1974.
In a press release issued Thursday, Cardinals Blasé Cupich said that the Archdiocese of Chicago has asked Father Clements to step aside from ministry as an investigation is launched into allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
“The allegation was referred to the archdiocesan Office for Child Abuse Investigations and review by the Chicago Police Department,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “In keeping with our child protection policies, the allegation was reported to DCFS and the Cook County State’s Attorney.”
Father Clements retired from active ministry in 2006, according to the archdiocese, but has assisted at several churches since his retirement.
The news sent shockwaves through the parish, with members praising Clements’ commitment to the community.
“He is one of the best, spiritual, humanly people that has walked the face of this Earth,” Ledbetter said.
Father Clements served as a resident priest at Saint Sabina Church on the city’s south side in 1993, and the church’s current pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, called Clements a Chicago icon.
“He’s the one who made black Catholics proud to be black Catholics,” he said. “I was shocked, and I was sad. He is a civil rights fighter and leader.”
Clements’ life followed an unconventional path, as he adopted four sons, something unheard of in the Catholic church. His life was turned into a movie, “The Father Clements Story,” starring actor Lou Gossett.
Now, he has been asked to step aside from ministry pending the end of the investigation, and the Chicago Archdiocese is offering the services of its Office of Assistance Ministry to the person making the allegations.
“The Archdiocese takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, and encourages anyone who feels they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious, or lay employee to come forward,” the archdiocese said in a statement.