CHICAGO - Parishioners at Saint Sabina on the South Side are offering their support to Father Michael Pfleger after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor decades ago.
On Wednesday, Father Pfleger released a short statement on social media saying the diocese asked him not to speak out at this time. He says he has received hundreds of messages from all across the country and says, "I am devastated, hurt and yes angry, but I am first, a person of Faith, I Trust God."
"I think this illustrates why every allegation of sexual abuse by clergy, must be investigated. We can’t make exceptions for priests we like or those whose work we admire," said Heidi Schlumpf, Executive Editor of National Catholic Reporter.
In a statement, Cardinal Blasé Cupich says he asked Father Pfleger to step aside from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago. As the archdiocese and police investigate, activists on Wednesday gathered at Saint Sabina Church in support of the senior pastor.
"Father Michael Pfleger, God loves you, and so do all of us!" said Eric Russell, President of Tree of Life Justice League.
Cardinal Cupich says the alleged victim has been offered counseling services.
Larry Antonsen, the Chicago leader of the non-profit "SNAP," Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says it is not unusual for a sexual abuse survivor to block out memories and come forward years later.
"First of all, they're not alone, and second of all...it was never their fault," Antonsen said.
The Cabinet of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina says it was not involved in the rally Wednesday, but believes that Father Pfleger will be exonerated.