Activist Chicago priest asked to step aside amid child sex abuse allegation

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The Archdiocese of Chicago has asked a well-known activist priest to step aside after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago.

A letter from Cardinal Blase Cupich urged parishioners at St. Sabina Catholic Church not to presume guilt or innocence, noting that Fr. Michael Pfleger had been referred to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State's Attorney.

"Father Pfleger has agreed to cooperate fully with my request and will live away from the parish while this matter is investigated," Cupich said.

Tuesday's news added to the many allegations of sex abuse by priests that have continued to surface in recent years. Cupich added that "it is crucial that you know nothing is more important than the welfare of the children entrusted to our care."

Pfleger, 70, is a prominent anti-violence activist who previously caught attention for his relationship with former Sen. Barack Obama. During the 2008 presidential race, Pfleger railed against Obama's former Democratic primary opponent, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, in a racially charged speech that led to condemnation from Obama and a temporary leave of absence.

"I'm Bill's wife," Pfleger said, apparently imitating Hillary Clinton. "I'm white and this is mine. I just got to get up and step into the plate and then out of nowhere came, hey, I'm Barack Obama and she said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show.'"

Obama later said he was "deeply disappointed" in the comments and resigned his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ where Pfleger made those comments. 

Pfleger also defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has recaptured national headlines recently for the backing he received from Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock after the former gave his "God Damn America" sermon that caught attention in 2008.

After the sermon surfaced in the media, Wright delivered a blessing at St. Sabina and was heralded by Pfleger. "I wanted him to come here so he could see that people really stand with him and support him while he's under all this attack," Pfleger reportedly said.  

Pfleger was also suspended in 2011 amid a disagreement over a proposed transfer to a different parish. He's served as pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church since 1981, according to WGN, an independent TV station in the Windy City. .

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