Matt C. Abbott
In January 2021, Father Michael Pfleger, known for his community activism and a frequent media presence, was temporarily removed from public ministry while the Archdiocese of Chicago investigated allegations by three men, two of whom are brothers, who said Pfleger sexually abused them many years ago. The accusers were never publicly named. Pfleger strongly denied the allegations.
In late May, the archdiocese announced that its Independent Review Board found “insufficient reason to suspect” Pfleger was guilty of abuse. He was subsequently reinstated to public ministry by Cardinal Blase Cupich, much to the delight of Pfleger’s parishioners and supporters. (Source)
I asked Pfleger in an email if he had any comment on his accusers, to which he replied: “Only that I forgive them and I am praying for them...”
In March 2018, Father C. Frank Phillips, CR, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius – known for offering the traditional Latin Mass as well as Mass in the vernacular – was removed from public ministry by Cupich for alleged “improper conduct with adult men.” Coincidentally, in that case, there were also two brothers and a third man (unrelated to Pfleger’s accusers) who made the accusations, which Phillips strongly denied.
The Congregation of the Resurrection, the order to which Phillips belongs, formed an Independent Review Board to investigate.
In late June 2018, Phillips released a statement through his attorney, which included the following:
Interestingly, despite the findings of the Review Board, Cupich decided not to allow Phillips back into public ministry in the archdiocese. No specific reason for this was ever given publicly by the archdiocese. The Congregation of the Resurrection also did not give any specific reason as to why Cupich refused to reinstate Phillips, who, to my knowledge, was never publicly critical of Cupich, Pope Francis or the archdiocese.
Phillips subsequently left Chicago to reside with his order in St. Louis, where he remains to this day.
In a recent email to me, Phillips wrote that he’s “doing fine” and that “…for the present, I’m still in St. Louis, and for all practical purposes, I’m retired.”
I can’t help but think Church politics played a role in how these two priests’ situations were ultimately handled. How so? I’ll let the readers draw their own conclusions.
Is there justice in the Church today? Well, according to Stephen Brady of The Roman Catholic Faithful, the murdered Father Alfred Kunz told him no – and that was back in the 1990s. It’s not any better today, even if the corruption is far more apparent than it was 20-plus years ago.
God help us all.© Matt C. Abbott
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