Prominent Chicago priest accused in 1974 child sex abuse

CHICAGO —The Archdiocese of Chicago says the first Catholic priest to adopt a child is under investigation for allegedly sexual abusing a minor in 1974.

The archdiocese said in a news release Thursday that Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Rev. George Clements to step aside from ministry pending the outcome of the investigation. The 87-year-old Clements is retired but the diocese says he still assists at area parishes.

The release says Chicago Police notified the archdiocese about the allegations. The archdiocese then notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

In 1974, Clements was the pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Chicago.  He was the first black man to lead that church.

People who attend and live near Holy Angels said they are trying to process the news.

“If it wasn't for Father Clements, this neighborhood wouldn't be in existence today,” said neighbor Collins Brown Jr.

“He helped me be the man I am today,” Holy Angels member Leroy Ledbetter said. “It's hard to believe. It's sad and hurtful.”

Father Michael Pfleger said Clements was a man he looked up to since he was a young priest.

“He's been a leader in civil rights and in bringing pride and voice to the black Catholic community in Chicago and around the country,” Pfleger said.

“Whenever it happens anywhere it's sad people are shaken by it,” Pfleger said of the allegations.

Pfleger worked closely with Clements on social issues and even got arrested together in the fight against drugs in the 1980's.

“I don't know anything about it,” he said.  “I'm not here to take sides. It's a real issue and important issue. I was shocked and sad.”

The archdiocese also listed Clements’ roles. They are:

  • St. Ambrose Parish (Chicago, 47th Street), associate pastor, July 6, 1957 – July 6, 1962
  •  St. Dorothy Parish (Chicago, 78th Street), associate pastor, July 7, 1962 – June 19, 1969
  •  Holy Angels Parish (Chicago, Oakwood Boulevard), pastor, June 20, 1969 – June 30, 1991
  •  Diocese of Nassau Bahamas, West Indies, September 1, 1991 – October 17, 1993
  •  St. Sabina Parish (Chicago, Throop Street), resident priest, 1993
  •  Archdiocese of Washington DC, October 18, 1993 – March 31, 2006
  •  Holy Angels Parish (Chicago, Oakwood Boulevard), pastor emeritus, March 31, 2006

 

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