The renowned and controversial pastor of St. Sabina’s in Chicago has stepped aside while an investigation goes forward.
The following letter was sent to parishioners from Cardinal Blase Cupich Tuesday:
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
For those unfamiliar with him, Father Pfleger for years was known as “Obama’s priest” — you can read more about him here — and was one of the most visible and outspoken members of clergy in the archdiocese.
From his parish biography:
Rev. Dr. Michael Louis Pfleger received his B.A. in Theology from Loyola University, his Master of Divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary. He has also completed post-graduate studies at Mundelein College and the Catholic Theological Union.
Father Pfleger was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 14, 1975. In 1981, at the age of 31, he became the youngest full pastor in the diocese when he was appointed Pastor of Saint Sabina Church.
In 1981, Father Pfleger became the proud adoptive father of an eight-year-old son, Lamar. In 1992, he also became the adoptive father of Beronti. In 1997, he became a foster father to Jarvis Franklin, who was tragically killed as a result of gang crossfire, May 30, 1998.
Since 1968, Father Pfleger has lived and ministered in the African-American community on both the west and south sides of Chicago. He spent two Summers working in a Native American community in Oklahoma, and did his seminary internship as a Chaplin at Cook County Jail and at Precious Blood Catholic Church, both in Chicago.
Father Pfleger has been recognized for his fight against alcohol and tobacco billboards, drugs and racism in People, Time, Ebony, Newsweek and Jet magazines; The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, U.S.A. Today, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Reader and numerous other papers an journals. He has also been profiled on the following television shows: “Day One” ABC; “60 Minutes” (CBS); BBC in Great Britain, the Larry King Show and Nightline.
Father Pfleger was cited in the December 20, 2004, Crain’s Chicago Business as one of the best and entertaining preachers in Chicagoland. Also, The Faith Community of Saint Sabina was written up in the December 2004 issue of Ebony Magazine as one of the churches symbolizing the “New Black Spirituality.”
In the course of his extensive and active ministry, Father Pfleger has been recognized for his commitment to equality and passionate stance against injustice. Some of the awards and honors he has received include: “Keeper of the Dream”, Rainbow/Push; Distinguished Service Award, Nation of Islam; “Thurgood Marshall Award”, National Black Prosecutors Association; “Monsignor Egan Social Justice Award”, DePaul University, “I Am A Man Award” from the April 4th Foundation in Memphis, TN, “Rosa Parks Award” from the SCLC and the “Unsung Hero Award” from the Wade’s World Foundation.
…As a minister, Father Pfleger has sought to break down the walls of racism and denominationalism by building unity among all people founded on truth and based on Jesus’ command to love one another. This holy calling has led him to be parent, a preacher, a teacher, a lecturer and an activist. However, he believes his most important role is an errand boy for Jesus!
Pray for all concerned, and that justice will be done.