CHICAGO (CBS) — A longtime Chicago priest and civil rights activist has died.
Father George Clements became famous for adopting four children. But he recently faced a serious accusation.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams had the story Monday night from Holy Angels Church in Bronzeville where Father Clements led parishioners for 22 years.
Father Clements suffered a stroke last month and died Monday morning at the age of 87. His ministry extended well beyond the walls of this church. Late in his life, he was accused of abusing a child in the 1970’s.
Father Clements was a Catholic priest for more than 60 year, celebrated by the powerful and by parishioners across the country.
As the long time pastor of Holy Angels Church in Bronzeville, his activism was sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He fought for equality. He fought against racism. He opened his doors to everybody,” said Father Michael Pfleger.
But it was a deeply personal role that made Father George Clements famous and the subject of a movie: He became a parent, the first American priest to adopt a child. He hoped his example would encourage others to adopt black children.
“I just feel no child should be without a home,” Clements said.
He eventually became the father of four sons. Three stood outside Clements church hours after he died at the age of 87.
“Today I lost a great father today, a great man,” said Friday Clements.
“We are so proud to be Clements,” added Joey Clements.
This year, Father Clements was accused of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970’s. Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Clements to step aside from ministry while investigators looked into the allegation.
A Chicago police spokesperson said the case is closed because the statute of limitations expired.
“The truth is the truth is the truth. I do believe my father will be exonerated,” said Friday Clements.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago is richer and better because George Clements was a priest here,” said Pfleger.
The archdiocese said its investigation into the accusation against Father Clements is still open.
His sons said a memorial service is planned for Father Clements birthday in January.