Father Michael Pfleger, a Chicago Archdiocese priest, is facing two allegations of child sexual abuse. The archdiocese asked Pfleger to step down from public ministry after the first allegation. Pfleger will step away from his parish while the allegation is being investigated.
Father Michael Pfleger Accused Of Sexually Abusing Two Minors
This month, two survivors of clergy abuse named Michael Pfleger as their abuser. Allegedly, both incidents of abuse occurred more than 40 years ago.
First Abuse Allegation Against Pfleger
In early January, Rev. Michael Pfleger was accused of sexual abuse against a minor. The survivor claims the abuse happened more than 40 years ago. The Chicago Archdiocese asked Pfleger to step down from his position with Saint Sabina parish while an internal investigation is conducted.
The archdiocese and the state’s attorney’s office did not disclose any details of the allegation. The state’s attorney’s office will handle an external investigation with the help of the Chicago Police Department.
Archdiocese Addressed First Allegation In Letter
Details of the allegation have not been disclosed. However, the archdiocese did address the situation with the Saint Sabina parish community. On January 5, 2021, the Archdiocese of Chicago distributed a letter from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich about the allegations.
Cardinal Cupich stated Pfleger will live away from the parish during the investigations. Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese reported the allegation to:
- The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
- The Cook County State’s Attorney
Church officials also contacted Pfleger’s accuser to offer Victim Assistance Ministry services.
Second Abuse Allegation Against Pfleger
On January 24, 2021, the legal team representing the Archdiocese of Chicago received word of an additional allegation against Pfleger. The abuse allegedly occurred more than 45 years ago. The Associated Press reported the two plaintiffs who accused Pfleger of abuse are brothers. However, neither brother was aware of the other’s abuse at the hands of Pfleger.
Pfleger and his legal team continue to deny the allegations.
Many Saint Sabina Parishioners Support Pfleger
Pfleger has been the pastor at Saint Sabina parish since 1981. Before he became pastor, Pfleger worked at Saint Sabina for six years. Many of his parishioners have supported Pfleger throughout the last month. He is a well-known Chicago-area priest due to his long history with the Saint Sabina parish and his public, and sometimes controversial, acts of activism.
However, Pfleger is not the first Catholic priest in the spotlight to be accused of child sexual abuse. In November 2020, the Vatican released a report about Church cover-ups related to Theodore McCarrick, a prominent former cardinal and bishop in New Jersey. McCarrick was the first cardinal removed from his position due to a sexual abuse allegation.
If the investigations find the allegations against Pfleger have merit, his reputation in the community and his parishioners’ support will not protect him from the law.
Victims Commonly Come Forward Years After Abuse
Many victims will not speak about childhood sex abuse until they reach adulthood. It is not uncommon for child sex abuse victims to come forward years or decades after they were abused.
Larry Antonsen, a leader of the Chicago chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said most people don’t realize how common it is for victims to wait decades to come forward. Antonsen was sexually abused by a religious order priest when he was in high school.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘It was 40 years ago’ and, ‘Why did they wait so long?’ There’s a lot of people that have gone to their graves because they couldn’t deal with the guilt and the shame,” Antonsen explained.
Recognizing this pattern, many states have revised the statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. These revised statutes have given survivors more time to seek justice.
Illinois has no civil or criminal statutes of limitations for sexual abuse crimes against children.
Archdiocese of Chicago. (2021, January 5). Letter from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, on Father Michael Pfleger.
ChildUSA. (N.D.) Illinois Child Sex Abuse SOLs.
Christman, Z. (2011, May 22). Father Pfleger Returns to Pulpit. NBC Chicago.
Kenney M. (2021, January 24). St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger faces 2nd allegation of child sex abuse; priest’s lawyers assail ‘false attacks.’ Chicago Sun-Times.
Lynch, J., Parks, B., Alonso, M. (2021, January 6). Chicago priest Michael Pfleger on sex abuse allegation: I am devastated. CNN.
Tarm, M. (2021, January 26). Brothers accuse prominent Chicago priest of sexual abuse. The Associated Press.
Thometz, K. (2017, August). Illinois Eliminates Statutes of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse Crimes. WTTW.
Waller, A., Fazio, M. (2021, January 7) Activist Chicago Priest Is Accused of Sexual Abuse. The New York Times.
(2021, January 6). Pfleger Asked to Step Aside From Ministry After Child Abuse Allegation, Chicago Archdiocese Says. NBC Chicago.