A third man has accused Rev. Michael Pfleger of sexual assault beginning more than 40 years ago, presenting the Archdiocese of Chicago with a signed affidavit saying Pfleger touched him sexually in an unwanted manner and regularly gave him drugs and alcohol, an attorney for the man said Wednesday.
"What happened to me was not consensual," the man said in a statement distributed via his lawyer, who also represents two other men who have filed claims accusing Pfleger of sexual assault decades ago when they were 12. The statement did not include the third man's name, as he wishes to remain anonymous, per his lawyer, who said he is not filing a lawsuit or seeking any financial damages, calling it "painful" for him to talk about.
In a statement via his attorneys on Wednesday, Pfleger denied the allegations, calling them "false" and saying he "never touched this man in any sexual or inappropriate way at any time."
St. Sabina Church said it deferred to his attorneys to respond but the church's "position has not changed," adding, "we continue to stand with Fr. Pfleger." The Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement, “We have received the affidavit and will process it as we do every such allegation.”
Pfleger’s lawyers have previously rejected the two other claims against him as “false,” saying that the “salacious allegations” were harming his reputation.
"I do not want to take legal action but when I heard his supporters attacking the other victims and saying Father Mike could never do this, I knew I had to come forward and tell the truth," the third man's statement said. "Hopefully, my experience will add to their credibility and encourage other victims to come forward."
A statement from the man's attorney says the inappropriate sexual advances took place the summer after he graduated high school in the 1970s. The man, now in his late 50s, alleges that Pfleger regularly gave him marijuana and liquor for years earlier, beginning when he was 15 or 16.
In the affidavit given to the Archdiocese on Tuesday, the man says he attended St. Sabina grammar school and met Pfleger through a youth program, viewing him as a mentor, according to his lawyer. He said Pfleger often got high with him in the priest's rectory bedroom, where the unwanted sexual advance later occurred.
"He thought I was sleeping at the time. I was stunned and was eventually able to push him off me. After that, I was done with Mike Pfleger," the man said in his statement. “I do not want to take legal action but when I heard his supporters attacking the other victims and saying Father Mike could do never do this, I knew I had to come forward and tell the truth. Hopefully, my experience will add to their credibility and encourage other victims to come forward.”
"When I was 15 and 16, I thought it was cool that a priest would get high and drink with me but as an adult, it horrifies me. He should have been discouraging this behavior, not encouraging it and fueling it,” the man said. “I can now separate Mike the very flawed person from Father Pfleger, a priest who has also done good. I do not wish him any malice but he should not be around young children and the victims should be believed and respected because it is not easy to come forward."
"This man is not filing a lawsuit and he is not looking for money. This is painful for him to talk about," attorney Eugene Hollander said in a statement announcing the new allegations. "However, he came forward because he wants the Archdiocese to know what kind of priest Father Pfleger really is so it can take appropriate action and remove him from St. Sabina. He wants to support the victims who have come forward and the many who have not because of fear of retribution from Father Pfleger and his supporters."
The man said he would cooperate fully with the Archdiocese’s investigation, according to Hollander.
Pfleger's lawyers said in their statement Wednesday that he remembers the man identified but the incidents alleged in the affidavit "did not happen."
"During the late 1970s, the man’s mother was very active at St Sabina’s in the Women’s Club and the Church community. He knew the man as a teenager at St Sabina’s, but did not take him to Jazz clubs or give him alcohol or marijuana," the statement reads.
He claimed Hollander was "desperately trying to find anything to help his dishonest clients get money from the Archdiocese. He knows that his clients are dishonest men and that their gross and false stories about purported incidents from more than 45 years ago do not make sense," calling them "wholly inconsistent with Father Pfleger's character."
In January, the Archdiocese of Chicago asked Pfleger to step aside from his ministry after receiving an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
“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,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said at the time.
The sibling of the first person to accuse Pfleger then came forward with a second allegation of abuse later that month.
“Over the last 45 years, the brothers, who are from out of state, say they never told each other or anybody else about the alleged abuse until this month after they hired a lawyer,” the response from Pfleger’s lawyers read, in part. “The allegations by these two men are false. Unfortunately, these salacious allegations are being given publicity that is causing irreparable damage to Father Pfleger’s reputation.”
Last week, the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services wrote in a letter to Pfleger that the agency had determined that after an evaluation, a report of "suspected child abuse or neglect" was "unfounded."
"This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur," the letter read. "An incident may have occurred but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS Administrative Rule."
The Archdiocese of Chicago said the finding did not reflect an investigation by DCFS of allegations made against Pfleger earlier this year by the two brothers "and therefore should not be viewed as a judgment as to his guilt or innocence in those matters."
Pfleger, 71, has been the pastor of Saint Sabina Church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood since 1981, most widely known for his activism against violence in the city.