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Father Michael Pfleger Returns To St. Sabina After Archdiocese Clears Him Of Sexual Assault Allegation

The Archdiocese of Chicago concluded “there is no reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty," Cardinal Blase Cupich told parishioners in a letter.

Father Michael Pfleger speaks on the impact of gun violence on the youth in Chicago as he serves at St. Sabina Church on June 6, 2021 for the first time since January 3.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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AUBURN GRESHAM — Father Michael Pfleger returned to lead Mass Sunday morning at St. Sabina ​​Catholic Church after the Archdiocese of Chicago dismissed the fourth allegation of sexual assault against him. 

Pfleger agreed to step down from his position in October when a man in his 40s alleged he’d been sexually abused twice by the priest in the 80s. His departure came just 16 months after he’d been reinstated following a months-long investigation into three other child sex abuse allegations.

Over the past few months, the archdiocese investigated the latest allegation and reinstated Pfleger after concluding “there is no reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” according to a statement from Cardinal Blase Cupich. 

“I want to recognize that these months have taken a great toll on Fr. Mike and all of you, and I am committed to do everything possible to see that his good name is restored,” Cupich told parishioners in a letter. 

Pfleger has served St. Sabina Catholic Church for his entire career and his congregation has rallied around him after each allegation, saying he’d made important contributions to the church. 

The attorney representing three of the men who came forward, Eugene Hollander, said his client is “extremely disappointed” by the archdiocese’s decision because they had “overwhelming evidence concerning these sexual abuse allegations.” 

“Today’s finding, unfortunately, will discourage other victims of sexual abuse from coming forward,” Hollander said. “The Independent Review Board  did not disclose a basis for its finding.” 

​​Pfleger was first removed from St. Sabina in January 2021 when two brothers came forward saying he groomed and sexually abused them for years, beginning when they were around 12 and 13 years old. Hollander also represented the brothers. In March of that year, a third man accused the church leader of abusing him in the ’70s when the man was 18 years old. 

The most recent allegation came from a man in his 40s, who said that Pfleger sexually abused him two separate times in the parish rectory while he was a member of the Soul Children of Chicago Choir. 

In February 2021, investigators at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services examining if Pfleger posed a risk to current children deemed they couldn’t find “credible evidence of child abuse or neglect” that rose “to the level required” by state law and department rules. 

In May 2021, Pfleger was reinstated at the South Side church after leaders at the archdiocese found “no reason to suspect” the pastor was guilty of sexual abuse alleged by the three men. He returned to the pulpit in June 2021 with a packed house, including director Spike Lee.

In a release following the reinstatement, Hollander said the brothers who alleged Pfleger abused them were “shocked and deeply disappointed” in the archdiocese’s decision, but they were “proud that they came forward and delivered their truths” despite the outcome. 

Pfleger — who has denied all of the allegations — said he’s “grateful and thankful” that “this is done,” in a video posted to his Facebook page Saturday. 

“It’s been hard, it’s been difficult, it’s been painful, but if faith means anything at all, it’s to believe in God when it don’t make sense and when it hurts,” Pfleger said in the video. 

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