Father Michael Pfleger celebrates mass


CHICAGO (WLS) — Father Michael Pfleger led a Sunday mass for the first time in five months.

Pfleger had been under investigation for sexual abuse after two adult brothers accused the priest of assaulting them decades ago when they were teenagers.

The Chicago Archdiocese investigated the accusation and said, “insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich reinstated Pfleger, who has maintained his innocence, last month.

Pfleger was cheered by dozens of supporters last month as spoke outside Saint Sabina Catholic Church, where he has worked for decades.

“I want to thank you for not running and hiding,” he told his parishoners. “I thank you for keeping my voice out there when I had no voice.”

Pfleger said he is also anxious to return the streets to combat the city’s gun violence problem.

Director Spike Lee was among the 300 parishioners who enthusiastically greeted the priest’s return to a church where many have been here as long, if not longer than Pfleger has.

“We missed him so. I knew in my heart. I knew all the time in my heart that he would be back home,” said parishoner Cassie Sanders-Brown.

A popular yet controversial figure, Father Pfleger, has often been at odds with church officials. And at one point needed police protection because of his social activism. It is his popularity within the St. Sabina community that has kept him at the helm even through this latest storm.

“This is my heart this is my home. I missed the people,” Father Pfleger said.

Now clear of the accusations against him, Pfleger made it clear, both after the service, but especially during it, that he is not changing his ways anytime soon.

“As Muhammad Ali said. When you lay on the boxing ring floor. The ground is no place for a champion to be. So whether you like it or not. I got back up and the fight is still on,” he said.

Father Michael Pfleger was been reinstated last month as pastor of Saint Sabina Catholic Church on Chicago’s South Side.

Pfleger had been under investigation by the Chicago Archdiocese after two men came forward claiming they there were sexually assaulted by Pfleger.

An Archdiocese Review Board has found that there is “insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of allegations of sexual abuse” after a months-long investigation.

An emotional Pfleger spoke through tears Monday in front of dozens of supporters who gathered in front of the church where he has worked for decades.

“I have been frustrated, I’ve been angry. I’ve been depressed. And I’ve been discouraged. I’ve always been transparent with my members, with my family, with my friends,” Pfleger said. “I’m a man of faith, but I’m also a human being who bleeds.”

RELATED: Illinois DCFS wraps up investigation into Father Michael Pfleger

Back in January, two adult brothers from Texas filed complaints against the iconic South Side pastor. Both men said they were molested by Pfleger in the 1970s.

Pfleger has maintained his innocence.

“My clients provided details not only of the sexual abuse, the alleged sexual abuse, but they could tell you what Father Pfleger’s bedroom looked like in the rectory 40 years ago,” said Gene Hollander, attorney for the accusers. “They could describe the artwork that was hanging on the walls. They could tell you what was in his record collection. So that information is very, very telling.”

Hollander said his clients are both very disappointed, but the brothers are still happy they came forward to speak their truth.

“They put themselves out there, and most people wouldn’t do that,” he said.

“I think we had to trust the Archdiocese’s process,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “That process is now concluded. And I’m grateful that Father Mike will be back at Saint Sabina’s. And I’m sure they’re rejoicing all over that community as a consequence.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich said he asked 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.

WATCH: Spike Lee surprises Father Pfleger

“Let’s get back to work, and let’s kick the devil’s butt! We’re ready,” Pfleger said.

The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests is calling on the Chicago Archdiocese to be more transparent about their investigation process in all cases of sex abuse that come to the review board.

Full letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich:

Dear Members of the Faith Community of St. Sabina,

Thank you for your patience and prayers during the absence of your senior pastor. Father Michael Pfleger. As you know, earlier this year the archdiocese received allegations of child sexual abuse against Father Pfleger. In accordance with our policies for the protection of children and youth, the archdiocese Independent Review Board assisted by our Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review and outside investigators conducted a thorough review of the allegations.

The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations. Having given careful consideration to their decision, which I accept, I now inform you that I am reinstating Father Pfleger to his position of Senior Pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, effective the weekend of June 5-6, 2021. 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. He has agreed to do so.

The weekend he will return is the Feast of Corpus Christi when we celebrate that we are one in the Body of Christ, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows. It is in this spirit that I ask you to welcome back Father Pfleger, thereby helping him take up again the ministry that has distinguished St. Sabina in the archdiocese and beyond.

This past year has been a time of great trial for us all, and our church, our city and society are in need of your witness to Jesus’ love. Please know you will have my support and prayers as you continue to be a light in the community.

Sincerely yours,

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago

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