CHICAGO - There is no evidence to support allegations accusing the Rev. Michael Pfleger of abusing two brothers in their early teens decades ago, but this doesn’t mean the claims are untrue, Illinois’ child protection agency said in a letter to the Chicago priest Friday.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services won’t list Pfleger as a perpetrator of child abuse on the State Central Register because the agency found no credible evidence of child abuse or neglect, according to the letter that the priest released to the media.
"This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur," the letter states. "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."
In January, the brothers, now in their 60s, alleged Pfleger abused them in the 1970s when he was a seminarian at a West Side Chicago church and they were singing in the church choir.
Pfleger has denied the allegations.
"The law does not permit DCFS to investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect made by an adult victim," spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in a statement. "DCFS can only determine whether there is a current child victim."
Pfleger’s attorney, Mike Monico said the findings show DCFS doesn’t believe Pfleger to be a danger to children and that he should be allowed to return to his church.
The Archdiocese of Chicago disagreed, saying the agency’s findings should not be considered a judgment on Pfleger’s innocence or guilt.
"The agency was investigating risk, not allegations of abuse that occurred more than four decades ago," the archdiocese said in a statement, adding it continued to investigate the brothers’ allegations.
Eugene Hollander, who represents the brothers, said the agency’s findings are unimportant.
"DCFS’ findings have no bearing on the legal proceedings involving my clients or whether the Archdiocese of Chicago will remove Father Pfleger from his ministry," Hollander said in a statement. "Father Pfelger himself knows the truth of these allegations."
Pfleger was ordained in 1975 and was assigned to St. Sabina Church that same year. Six years later, according to a biography on the church’s website, he became pastor — the youngest full-time pastor in the archdiocese at the time.
He has won wide praise for turning a struggling parish into one of the most thriving in the nation’s third-largest city. Over the years he has garnered headlines for his activism and protests. He has been arrested while protesting at stores that were selling drug paraphernalia and for smearing red paint on billboards advertising cigarettes in his neighborhood.