Saint Sabina to withhold $100K monthly assessments to Archdiocese following investigation into Father Michael Pfleger

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Saint Sabina is using money to pressure the Archdiocese to move quickly, in its investigation into abuse allegations against Father Michael Pfleger.

The parish will withhold its monthly assessment payment to the Archdiocese until the investigation is finished, officials said Sunday.

The church and school pay about $100,000 a month.

"In its continued effort to get the Archdiocese of Chicago to swiftly conclude its investigation into the allegations against Fr. Pfleger, that it has made the decision to withhold the monthly assessments of the church and school to the Archdiocese starting in March. These assessments total approximately $100,000 per month," officials said in a statement. "To be clear these funds being withheld will not be used for ministry, outreach, or any current or future programs, but will be set aside to be paid at the conclusion of the investigation."

"Every case is handled in a professional, impartial and consistent manner. Giving a case special treatment undermines the credibility of its outcome and ultimately serves neither the accuser nor the accused. Justice demands a thorough and impartial process and there is no timeframe in which we 'should" make a determination,'" the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement Monday. "Thirty years of being at the forefront of dealing with abuse of minors, which sadly continues in society today, has taught us that these matters take the time they take to reach a just conclusion. We intend to continue working on all the cases before us toward that end, always giving priority to the protection and healing of victims."

This comes after The Archdiocese of Chicago said Friday that it has received a letter from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services stating that DCFS has concluded its investigation into Father Michael Pfleger, the St. Sabina pastor who faces two sexual abuse allegations.

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Fr. Pfleger to step away from ministry at St. Sabina parish on Chicago's South Side in early January when Pfleger was initially accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 40 years ago. According to the archdiocese, the brother of the first alleged victim of abuse also made a claim last month.

The agency was investigating risk, the archdiocese said, not the allegations of abuse dating back four decades.

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In a statement, DCFS confirmed: "The law does not permit DCFS to investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect made by an adult victim. DCFS can only determine whether there is a current child victim."

The archdiocese said DCFS has completed its investigation into Pfleger and said in part, "DCFS has determined the report to be 'unfounded.' This means that credible evidence of child abuse or neglect was not found during this investigation. This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur. An incident may have occurred but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS Administrative Rule."

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"The Independent Review Board of the archdiocese will conduct its investigation into the allegations and will communicate its findings in due course. Fr. Pfleger will remain away from the parish pending the outcome of that process," the archdiocese said in a statement.

"I would hope and expect I would be returned to ministry quickly," Pfleger told ABC7 Chicago by phone Friday.

In the meantime, parishioners have continued many of the initiatives Father Pfleger worked on before the investigation, such as distributing food to seniors and others in the Auburn Gresham community.

Attorney Juliet Boy, who specializes in DCFS investigations, said their determination is significant.

"If the evidence does not meet DCFS standards that means the quantum of proof is fairly low," she said.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese released a statement saying the process is not over: "The Independent Review Board of the archdiocese will conduct its investigation into the allegations and will communicate its findings in due course. Fr. Pfleger will remain away from the parish pending the outcome of that process."

"We want them to move quickly, and diligently, but the key word is quickly," said Cory Williams, with St. Sabina.

Pfleger said a Canon lawyer, who has to be approved by the Vatican, has recommended he be reinstated. He said he is restricted now, but when this is over, he will have much more to say.

READ: DCFS letter to Chicago Archdiocese on Father Michael Pfleger investigation
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