Today, the Chicago Sun-Times published my letter to the editor about how the reflexive support for popular Chicago priest, Fr. Michael Pfleger, impacts victim-survivors of sexual violence. St. Sabina parishioners as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Walt Whitman of the Soul Children of Chicago, and, during Sunday Mass at St. Sabina’s, Fr. Tom Walsh all stood firmly behind Pfleger in the face of the fourth allegation of child sex crimes against him.
Fr. Pfleger who is white, has been the pastor of St. Sabina’s, a predominately Black Catholic church, since 1981, even though archdiocesan policy is for priests to serve a maximum of two six-year terms. The best known Catholic priest in Chicago, he has been a strong advocate for gun control and issues of concern to the Black community.
The letter was minimally edited. I had hoped the editor would move the “in 1993” in the first sentence to make the timeline clearer, but no luck. Oh, well. The editor did delete three things. No surprise that my Oxford comma didn’t last, but I was surprised by the other two minor cuts, which I note in the letter the below.
Public displays of support for Pfleger make it harder for child sex crime victims to come forward
It is amazing that four men have dared to come forward with allegations against Fr. Michael Pfleger. May they get a fair hearing.
When the late Chicago Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Bernardin first faced what turned out to be one of the rare false accusations of clerical sex abuse in 1993, he said of the Archdiocese’s response and investigation: “It must be done in such a way that is effective, obviously, but in such a way that will not frighten or scare off true victims.”
I do not see Fr. Michael Pfleger expressing that same concern for victim-survivors of child sex crimes when addressing the fourth allegation against him. Nor do I see it from the faith community of St. Sabina or the Soul Children of Chicago.
The reflexive public displays of support for Pfleger, [including from the pulpit,] are making it harder for others who have seen, suspected[,] or suffered child sex crimes to come forward. As it is, the average age that a victim-survivor discloses child sex abuse is 52. And [the Sun–Times] reporting on Pfleger’s supporters’ aghast responses without providing adequate counterbalance only contributes to the message that victim-survivors of all types of sexual violence are getting loud and clear: telling our truths is not safe; we will not be believed. Stay silent.
In such an environment, it is amazing that four men have dared to come forward with allegations against Pfleger. May they get a fair hearing.
Michele Beaulieux, Hyde Park
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