A day after the Rev. Michael Pfleger was accused again of child sex abuse, the popular priest was absent from Sunday Mass at St. Sabina Church. But he was the focus of the service.
“Show Father Mike what it means to be persistent in prayer,” the Rev. Tom Walsh told the congregation during the 2 1⁄2 hour service punctuated by support for Pfleger.
Walsh directed congregants to face a camera at the rear of the church broadcasting the service on the internet, where he said Pfleger would be watching.
“Father Mike, this is your army. These are your warriors,” Walsh said. “We’ve got you. We’re holding up your hands in prayer.”
The new allegation, dating back more than 30 years, come less than two years after Pfleger was reinstated at his Auburn Gresham parish after an investigation that cleared him of wrongdoing on unrelated accusations. Pfleger has been removed from the ministry for the duration of the investigation.
Near the end of the Mass, Walsh said he was obligated to read a letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich outlining the new allegation against Pfleger.
After reading it, Walsh crumpled up the letter to some applause and looked back, saying, “Oops, sorry.”
Several parishioners in the pews wore shirts reading, “We stand with Father Pfleger.”
The South Side priest’s latest accuser is a man in his late 40s who says Pfleger sexually abused him twice in the late-1980s during choir rehearsals, according to the man’s attorney, Eugene Hollander. The abuse allegedly happened in the St. Sabina rectory.
Pfleger, 73, has denied the latest allegation. He is not facing criminal charges.
Choir director Walter Whitman denounced the allegations and said Pfleger was a “man of integrity.”