St. Sabina voiced support after the Archdiocese of Chicago asked the Rev. Michael Pfleger to step aside from his ministry at the faith community following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
The Faith Community of St. Sabina said the Cabinet believes the accusations are "unfounded," standing with the long-time pastor.
"We boldly stand behind the integrity, passion, work and ministry of our Sr. Pastor, Rev. Michael Pfleger," the cabinet said in a statement. "His ministry spand over 45 years and he has maintained his mission of Luke 4:18, 'to proclaim the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom to the prisoners, sight to the blind and set the oppressed free,' reaching thousands of citizens in the city of Chicago and worldwide."
The faith community's cabinet said they understand the process and protocol of the Archdiocese of Chicago and will fully cooperate. The cabinet added that they believe Pfleger will be "fully exonerated from all accusations."
Supports of Pfleger gathered Wednesday throughout Chicago, with the one group meeting at the steps of St. Sabina to show their loyalty to the pastor.
The St. Sabina Cabinet said that though they appreciate the support for Pfleger, they would not involve themselves in the event.
Pfleger responded to the abuse allegation Wednesday after being asked to step aside from serving the faith community.
"I can't possibly respond to the hundreds of Texts, emails, and calls that I have received from all across the nation since [Tuesday]," Pfleger wrote in a Facebook post. "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."
The Archdiocese of Chicago said Tuesday that an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor 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.
Pfleger said he was asked "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...." he wrote.
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.