The priest’s biography on the Saint Sabina Church website said that since 1968 he has lived and ministered in the African-American community on the west and south sides of Chicago. He worked two summers in a Native American community in Oklahoma, and as a seminarian he interned at Cook County Jail and at Chicago’s Precious Blood Church.
He adopted an eight-year-old boy in 1981 and adopted another boy in 1992. In 1997, he became foster father to Jarvis Franklin, who was killed in 1998 in the crossfire of a gang shooting.
His causes include opposition to gun violence and support for gun control. He led an anti-gun march last Thursday, ABC 7 Chicago reports.
At times he has voiced support for the ordination of women as Catholic priests, a position which the Church has held to be incompatible with the Catholic understanding of the priesthood.
He has also helped launch several employment and social services programs for youth, the elderly and the homeless.
After the abuse allegation was announced, a message supporting Pfleger came from the Cabinet of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina, a leadership body composed of more than a dozen parish leaders. In a Jan. 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.”
Pfleger has often been a source of controversy. In 2019 he 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 publicly responded to comments Pfleger made deriding Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
In addition, in 2011 George suspended Pfleger from his ministry at St. Sabina 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.
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.