CHICAGO (WLS) -- Father Michael Pfleger wasted no time speaking to his congregation after a review board found no evidence the pastor is guilty of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Blase Cupich announced Saturday that he has reinstated St. Sabina Catholic Church pastor to his senior role, effective immediately.
In a letter to the Saint Sabina parish, Cupich said, "The Review Board has concluded that there is no reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations."
Fr. Pfleger shared the reinstatement letter on his Facebook page with the caption: "Like MJ said. 'I'M BACK.'"
His entrance was met with applause, tears, and relief from St. Sabina parishioners.
"I thank you for believing in me. I thank you for never giving up on me," Fr. Pfleger said during his first public comments after being reinstated. This has been very painful. It would be twice in a row in, like, two-and-a-half years. But two things, God is faithful. God is faithful no matter how bad things look."
Fr. Pfleger was asked to step aside from the ministry in October after a man in his late 40s filed a claim with the Archdiocese saying that he was abused while he was a member of the Soul Children of Chicago choir in the 1980s.
In the claim, the man said he was sexually abused by Pfleger on two separate occasions in the parish rectory.
He was the third man to file a claim with the Archdiocese of Chicago accusing Fr. Pfleger of sexual abuse.
The accuser's attorney called the decision disappointing Saturday, saying that his clients presented detailed evidence concerning abuse.
"I think my client deserves to know why they reached the result they did. I think I deserve to know. What was unfounded by his story," said Eugene Hollander , the accuser's attorney.
Pfleger returned to St. Sabina in June 2021 after a five-month investigation by the Archdiocese and DCFS based on allegations from two brothers. Those allegations were determined to be unfounded.
Fr. Pfleger became a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1975. And in 1981, he became the pastor of St. Sabina.
Cupich said Fr. Pfleger's reinstatement is effective immediately, and told parishioners, " I want to recognize that these months have taken a great toll on Fr. Mike and all of you, and I am committed to do everything possible to see that his good name is restored."
Fr. Pfleger said he plans to lead mass at St. Sabina Sunday morning.
"My client is extremely disappointed by today's finding. We had overwhelming evidence concerning these sexual abuse allegations. Today's finding, unfortunately, will discourage other victims of sexual abuse from coming forward. The Independent Review Board did not disclose a basis for its finding.The man claimed that on two separate occasions Father Pfleger sexually assaulted him at the rectory of the church. The man decided to come forward after he saw media reports in 2021 about two brothers who claimed that Father Pfleger sexually abused them some 40 years earlier. The brothers both voluntarily submitted to polygraph examinations and passed. The brothers also presented evidence from a third victim who claimed that the priest sexually assaulted him shortly after he turned the age of 18. All of my clients presented credible and detailed evidence concerning the abuse."