Pfleger drew support from the Cabinet of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, a leadership body composed of more than a dozen parish leaders. In a January 5 message, posted to the parish website, the cabinet said that it believes that the accusations are unfounded. However, the message did not cite reasons for this belief. The cabinet pledged full cooperation with the archdiocese's process, while also stating its belief that the priest will be "fully exonerated from all accusations."
The message continued: "we will stand with him during this process as he has stood with victims of injustice and (we) will continue to uplift his work and the life he has committed to others."
Pfleger has often been a source of controversy.
In May 2019, Cupich distanced himself from the priest when Pfleger invited controversial preacher Louis Farrakhan to speak at his parish after Farrakhan was banned from Facebook for violating its hate speech policies. Farrakhan is the founder of the Chicago-based group Nation of Islam and has a history of anti-Semitic preaching.
During the controversial 2008 Democratic presidential primary, the late Cardinal Francis George had to publicly respond to comments Pfleger made deriding Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
In addition, George suspended Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina in 2011 and barred him from celebrating the sacraments because of public statements Pfleger had made threatening to leave the Church if he were reassigned from his current parish. George reinstated Pfleger after the priest apologized, saying he did not intend a public remark to be a threat to leave the priesthood and that he was sorry for how his comment appeared.
The Saint Sabina website said Pfleger has campaigned against the sale of drug paraphernalia, billboards for alcohol and tobacco products that target children, and music that glorifies violence and degrades women.
He has helped launch several employment and social services programs for youth, the elderly and the homeless. For one anti-prostitution program, he developed a team of church members who "rather than have the prostitutes arrested, went out and paid prostitutes for their time so they could talk about how they could turn their lives around," his biography on the parish website said.
Father Thulani Magwaza will serve as temporary parish administrator during Pfleger's absence. Magwaza stood in as parish administrator during the priest's 2011 suspension as well.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.