Home Christian News St. Sabina Stands by Chicago Priest Rev. Michael Pfleger Amid Second Set...

St. Sabina Stands by Chicago Priest Rev. Michael Pfleger Amid Second Set of Abuse Allegations

Michael Pfleger
The Rev. Michael Pfleger addresses supporters and media May 24, 2021, outside his church, the Faith Community of St. Sabina in Chicago's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

(RNS) — A prominent Catholic parish in Chicago denounced abuse allegations against its popular pastor and demanded an investigation into those allegations be resolved quickly.

“God would not have blessed this ministry for over 40 — close to 50 years — if something dark needed to come to light,” Kimberly Lymore, associate minister at St. Sabina Parish, said during a service Sunday (Oct. 16).

The Rev. Michael Louis Pfleger, the longtime pastor of the predominantly Black congregation, has been temporarily removed from ministry after the Archdiocese of Chicago received an allegation of abuse against him. The alleged abuse of a minor— which comes less than two years after Pfleger was cleared of separate abuse accusations — is more than 30 years old, according to a letter from the diocese.

Pfleger was reinstated as pastor of St. Sabina in May of 2021 after an archdiocese review board cleared him of previous allegations of abuse. Known for his dynamic preaching and activism against gang violence and injustice, Pfleger, who is white, has led St. Sabina since the early 1980s and is one of the best-known clerics in Chicago.

“Let me be clear, I am completely innocent of this accusation,” Pfleger wrote in a letter to the parish, which was read during the Sunday Mass. “While I am confident that the new allegations will be determined to be unfounded this process is so unfair and painful to me and to the community I serve.”

RELATED: Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago reinstates Rev. Michael Pfleger after past sex abuse allegations

Pfleger stepped down in January 2021 after two brothers accused him of abusing them 40 years earlier when they were minors, but he was later reinstated. The new allegations also involve abuse of a minor, this time from more than 30 years ago. He has denied all allegations.

Church members responded to his past suspension over abuse allegations by staging rallies on his behalf and threatening to withhold donations to the archdiocese.

The popular priest is no stranger to controversy. He took a leave of absence in 2008 after criticizing then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a church service and then was suspended in 2011 during a clash with former Chicago Cardinal Francis George, who tried to reassign him.

Just before Pfleger’s letter was read, the Rev. Tom Walsh, who led Mass in the pastor’s absence, read a letter from Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich.

“As is required by our child protection policies, the allegation was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the law enforcement officials,” Cupich wrote. “The person making the allegation has been offered the services of our Victim Assistance Ministry and the archdiocese has begun its investigation and we will do our best to keep you informed.”

After reading the letter, Walsh crumpled it up and seemed ready to discard it, then said, “Whoops, sorry.”