Activist priest reinstated

A US priest has been reinstated in his parish after a four-month investigation found “insufficient reason to suspect” he sexually abused children.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago confirmed Chicago priest Michael Pfleger has been released and will be reinstated.

Pfleger is a nationally known activist.

Four months ago when the archdiocese asked Pfleger to step aside, his parish was told the archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review had received a sex abuse allegation against Pfleger.

He was alleged to have sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago. Three accusers ultimately came forward, with one saying he was 18 when Pfleger sexually abused him.

In a letter to the parish, Cardinal Blase Cupich said he had accepted the finding of the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review and the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board.

A diocesan spokeswoman said the Independent Review Board’s letter on its findings used the term “insufficient reason” to describe its findings.

Cupich said Pfleger’s would be reinstated in his parish from this weekend.

“I have asked Father Pfleger to take the next two weeks to prepare himself spiritually and emotionally to return, realizing that these months have taken a great toll on him,” Cupich said. “He has agreed to do so.”

Pfleger, who is white, had fierce support from leaders and parishioners at St. Sabina, a Black church in the city’s largely Black and low-income neighbourhood.

Parishioners cheered as he arrived for a news conference outside St. Sabina on Monday.

Upset by the Pfleger’s removal, they had tied up the archdiocese’s phone lines, held rallies, sent letters and threatened to withhold $100,000 in monthly dues.

Pfleger told the crowd that he will return to work emboldened, stronger and “more ready to fight than ever in my life”, focusing on violence and inequality in their neighbourhood and Chicago.

“False accusations were put out against me … and I was immediately put out,” Pfleger said.

“You’re guilty until proven innocent. And it’s been hell.”

He thanked church leaders and parishioners for supporting him in the “most difficult and challenging time” that made him frustrated, angry, depressed and discouraged.

“I’m a man of faith, but I’m also a human being who hurts and who bleeds,” he said.

“I’ve been discouraged at times. I wanted to give up … but I love this church too much to walk away.”

Eugene Hollander, an attorney for the accusers, said his clients are considering filing a lawsuit.

Two brothers, now in their 60s, alleged in January that Pfleger groomed them as children and abused them at rectories in the Chicago area. They accused him of taking advantage of two Black boys who trusted him.

A third man later accused Pfleger of grabbing his crotch over his clothes in 1979.

In a separate review of the allegations, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services completed its own investigation in February.

It concluded there was no credible evidence of child abuse or neglect by Pfleger.


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