March 29, 2023

CHICAGO (AP) — A Catholic priest who achieved national fame as an activist has been asked to step down from his ministry as allegations of sexual assault on a minor decades ago are investigated.

The development came just over a year after another investigation cleared the priest, Reverend Michael Pfleger, from charges of sexually abusing children.

In a letter sent on Saturday, Cardinal Blase Cupich said Pfleger was asked to relinquish his duties in the church, the community of faith of Saint Sabina, after allegations were made that he sexually assaulted a minor decades ago.

Pfleger “agreed to cooperate fully with this request,” Cupich said, adding that the archdiocese has informed the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and law enforcement officials as required by archdiocese policy.

The accuser is a man in his late 40s who said Pfleger twice abused him during choral rehearsals at Saint Sabina’s rectory in the late 1980s, according to a statement from a spokesman for the man’s lawyer, Eugene Hollander. The lawyer did not comment on the allegations.

In his own statement to the parish on the south side of the city, which he has led for decades, Pfleger said he had done nothing wrong.

“Let me be clear – I am completely innocent of this charge,” he wrote, telling his parish that he was confident the charge “would be determined to be baseless” and that he would be reinstated.

Pfleger, who is white, runs a black church in Chicago’s largely black and poor Auburn Gresham neighborhood. His activism caught the eye of film director Spike Lee, who based a character, played by actor John Cusack, in the 2015 film “Chi-Raq” on Pfleger.

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Pfleger has made national headlines for his activism on a range of topics, from cigarette and alcohol advertising, cracking down on drug dealers and shops selling drug paraphernalia, and leading numerous protests. He has even been charged for his activism, once saying it “has led to jealousy, attacks and hatred.”

In May last year, four months after Pfleger was asked to resign from his duties while investigating similar allegations involving a minor more than 40 years earlier, he was restored by the Archdiocese after the probe found “insufficient reason to suspect” that he has sexually abused children.


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