CHICAGO (CBS) — The Rev. Michael Pfleger this past weekend issued a letter to the St. Sabina faith community, proclaiming he is innocent of sexual abuse allegations that have been leveled against him and saying he will “no longer wait in silence” amid an investigation by the Chicago Archdiocese he believes is taking too long.
Pfleger was removed from St. Sabina’s parish in the Auburn Gresham community, pending an investigation into allegations of past sexual abuse. Both of Pfleger’s original accusers – two brothers – shared their story exclusively with CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov. They told her they could no longer keep their secret.READ MORE: State Rep. LaShawn Ford Introduces Legislation To Increase Equity In Illinois Cannabis Industry
The brothers who made the earlier accusations say they were each around 12 or 13 when the sexual abuse started 40 years ago. Both said Pfleger’s prominent standing in his community kept them speaking out until now.
A third man this month said he was 18 when an alleged incident with Pfleger occurred, but he said he came forward after hearing the brothers’ claims.
In a letter issued Sunday, Pfleger thanked the faith community of St. Sabina for asking the Archdiocese to conclude its investigation, or at least to send him back to the parish while they continue their investigation, “as provided by canon law.”
Pfleger wrote that the investigation has been going on for more than two months, during which a separate investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has already wrapped up, and during which neither he nor the St. Sabina community has received much information about the Archdiocese investigation or why it is taking so long. He placed the word “investigation” in quotation marks when referring to the probe by the Archdiocese.
Pfleger wrote that he and his attorneys had asked that he be allowed to address the Archdiocese Review Board during the board’s meeting this past Saturday, and the board refused. He wrote that newly-appointed interim board director Moira Reilly said the board was “not prepared” to meet with him until it investigated further.
As to the status of the investigation, Pfleger wrote that Reilly told him it would be over “as soon as practicable” and noted that most board members are volunteers with full-time jobs elsewhere.READ MORE: Remembering Hazel Johnson, Chicago’s ‘Mother Of Environmental Justice,’ On Earth Day 10 Years After Her Passing
“While this is disappointing, painful, and harmful to the St. Sabin and Auburn Gresham communities, and me, I will not let this Board or the process destroy all that we, together, have built,” Pfleger wrote.
Pfleger wrote that he is innocent of the allegations against him and believes that the Review Board and the Cardinal will conclude that the allegations are unfounded and restore him to ministry and St. Sabina.
“In the meantime, I know that I cannot emotionally or spiritually continue to remain isolated in my apartment waiting for this Board to do its job,” he wrote. “While I hope and pray that the Review Board will work a little harder and promptly conclude their investigation, I will no longer wait in silence.”
Pfleger wrote that he would be looking for alternative ways to minister to the Auburn Gresham community while the investigation is going on.
Pfleger’s attorney has also vehemently denies the abuse allegations.
Supporters have rallied behind Pfleger, saying his character has never been questioned before. The two brothers have also been accused of lying for financial gain. But they say their main motivation for coming forward is not money but telling the truth. Pfleger’s attorneys point to a letter the younger brother sent Pfleger asking for $20,000. The younger brother said he thought he’d use payment as an admission of guilt.
Last month, leadership at St.Sabina Church announced that the church will withhold its monthly assessments of the church and school to the Archdiocese of Chicago starting this month, in what the church said was a “continued effort to get the Archdiocese of Chicago to swiftly conclude its investigation into the allegations against Fr. Pfleger.”MORE NEWS: Federal Rescue Plan Is Supposed To Keep Unemployment Benefits Going, But Many Say They're Being Held Up In Illinois
The assessments Saint Sabina plans to withhold total about $100,000 per month, the church said in a statement. The church also noted that the funds will not be used but will be set aside to be paid at the conclusion of the investigation.