UPDATE: Pfleger has since issued a response in a post on social media. Read more here.
The Archdiocese of Chicago has asked Father Michael Pfleger to step aside from his ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that was received by the Archdiocese’s Office of Child Abuse Investigations and Review.
According to a letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich, the allegation stems from an incident that occurred more than 40 years ago.
“Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish while this matter is investigated,” Cupich said in the letter.
The allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State’s Attorney, in accordance with church policy.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago 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,” Cupich said.
The church asked parishioners and Chicago residents to remember that the claims of abuse “have not been proven as true or false,” and not to assume guilt or innocent in the case.
NBC 5 has reached out to Father Pfleger for comment.
Pfleger, 70, has been the pastor of Saint Sabina Church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood since 1981. He has become widely known for his activism against violence in the city, and has frequently been the subject of controversy, speaking out against the “Jerry Springer Show” and criticizing rap musicians who he says glorified violence in their music.
Pfleger took a leave of absence from St. Sabina in 2008 after criticizing then-Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary season. After his words were criticized by then-Sen. Barack Obama, Pfleger apologized and took a disciplinary leave of absence from the church.
Pfleger was also suspended in 2011 by Francis Cardinal George. The suspension lasted for approximately one month, and his suspension was lifted in May 2011.
Here is the full letter sent by Cardinal Cupich to St. Sabina parishioners:
Dear members of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina and the Saint Sabina Academy Community,
I write to share some difficult news about your senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger. In keeping with our child protection policies, I have 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. Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false. Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.
Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish while this matter is investigated. Your pastor, Father Thulani Magwaza will serve as temporary administrator of Saint Sabina Parish and will attend to the needs of the parish and school community.
Moreover, as is required by our child protection policies, the allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Cook County State’s Attorney. The person making the allegation has been offered the services of our Victim Assistance Ministry and the archdiocese has begun its investigation.
In the days and weeks ahead, members of the archdiocese’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth will be available to answer any questions you may have and provide you with support during this challenging time.
It is crucial that you know nothing is more important than the welfare of the children entrusted to our care. The Archdiocese of Chicago 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. Complete information about reporting sexual abuse can be found on the archdiocesan website at ww w.archchi cago.org .
Please know that you are in my prayers. We will do our best to keep you informed of developments as they occur.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago