Chicago Priest to Be Reinstated After Inquiry Finds Proof of Sex Abuse Lacking

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an influential Roman Catholic priest who quickly stepped except for his parish on the South Side of Chicago in January after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor greater than 40 years in the past, will probably be reinstated after an inner investigation discovered “insufficient reason to suspect” he was responsible, the Archdiocese of Chicago introduced on Monday.

In a letter to the Faith Community of St. Sabina, the parish the place Father Pfleger is assigned, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich mentioned that the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board and its Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review, in addition to exterior investigators, had “conducted a thorough review of the allegations.”

“The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” the cardinal wrote. He mentioned he accepted the choice and would reinstate Father Pfleger to his place as senior pastor on the church starting June 5.

Father Pfleger, who didn’t return a phone message left at his church or an e mail despatched on Monday night, wrote on Facebook that he was “overjoyed” by the choice to reinstate him after having been eliminated “because of False Accusations.”

A separate investigation by the Chicago Police Department is constant. “It is still an open and active investigation,” Steve Rusanov, a spokesman for the division, mentioned in an announcement.

The inquiry into Father Pfleger was introduced on Jan. 5., after the archdiocese acquired an allegation that he sexually abused a minor greater than 40 years in the past. “Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cardinal Cupich wrote on the time. “Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.”

After the primary accuser got here ahead, two extra did, too. The second accuser is the older brother of the primary accuser; the third accuser is a person not associated to the brothers, in accordance to Eugene Hollander, a lawyer representing all three males.

On Monday, Mr. Hollander mentioned his shoppers had introduced “a staggering amount of evidence” to church investigators. “What do I have to do, produce 10 victims to say they were allegedly abused by Father Pfleger?” he requested.

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Father Pfleger in 2014. He wrote on Facebook that he was “overjoyed” by the choice to reinstate him after having been eliminated “because of False Accusations.”Credit…Stacy Thacker/Associated Press

Father Pfleger has reduce a hanging determine in 4 many years at St. Sabina. In 1981, at age 31, he started working within the parish, within the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of Chicago, which has about 2,000 parishioners, most of whom are Black.

His unorthodox strategy to activism has drawn widespread consideration. He staged sit-in protests at drug paraphernalia outlets. He painted over liquor billboards in poor neighborhoods. He paid prostitutes for his or her time so he may preach to them and assist them discover a path out of poverty and drug dependancy.

In 2008, he was briefly positioned on depart after he mocked Hillary Clinton in a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ, President Barack Obama’s former church. On New Year’s Eve in 2020, he led a silent march in Chicago’s most costly procuring district to name consideration to the greater than 750 murder victims within the metropolis that 12 months.

After the abuse allegations surfaced in January, Father Pfleger agreed to cooperate with investigators and to dwell away from the parish in the course of the investigation, the cardinal wrote.

At the time, Father Pfleger wrote on Facebook that he was “devastated, hurt and yes angry but I am a person of faith, I Trust God.” He additionally mentioned church officers had requested him not to communicate out, including: “Pray also for the person, my life is more than a 40 year old accusation, and on that and my Faith I will stand.”

Mr. Hollander mentioned his shoppers had spoken at size with church investigators. They described particulars solely an individual who had visited the pastor’s bed room would know, he mentioned.

“No one was supposed to be in the bedroom of a priest at a rectory, period,” Mr. Hollander mentioned. “And these brothers were granted access, as well as the other victim, and they can recall all of these details which someone off the street, perhaps a parishioner of St. Sabina, would have no knowledge about that.”

In January, the archdiocese mentioned it reported the allegations in opposition to Father Pfleger to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services and to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Jassen Strokosch, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, mentioned on Monday that the company is permitted to examine allegations solely when the sufferer is a minor on the time the allegation is made. (Mr. Hollander mentioned his shoppers have been throughout 18 years of age.)

In February, the division introduced that it couldn’t examine the matter as a result of the individuals making the accusations in opposition to Father Pfleger have been adults.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Cook County state’s legal professional mentioned it had not acquired any details about accusations in opposition to Father Pfleger from the police.

In his letter on Monday, Cardinal Cupich mentioned the reinstatement of Father Pfleger would happen in “the next two weeks to prepare himself spiritually and emotionally to return, realizing that these months have taken a great toll on him.”

A phone message left on the Archdiocese on Monday night was not instantly returned.

“It’s a difficult day for them to reckon with,” Mr. Hollander mentioned of the three accusers’ reactions to Father Pfleger’s reinstatement. “My clients, on a person level, don’t feel vindicated, but I think they needed to do this to make them feel complete, in order to move on with their lives.”