CHICAGO — Two brothers accusing prominent pastor Father Michael Pfleger of sexual abuse 40 years ago went on the record to tell their side of the story Monday.
Both in their early 60s, the brothers sat in the shadows of their attorney’s office, not wanting to reveal their identities as they detailed graphic allegations of abuse from decades ago.
“I’ve been harboring this and holding this in for many years. This situation that happened to me when I was a child,” one man said.
They both allege the abuse started while they were in their early teens and Pfleger was a young priest at Precious Blood Parish on Chicago’s West Side, where he served before being assigned to St. Sabina in 1981.
One of the brothers called it grooming, saying special attention was paid to him, and detailed the time he spent at the church rectory — sometimes overnight — where he said the sexual nature of his allegations happened.
“He would encourage me to touch him… but at times I would pretend to be asleep,” one brother said. “I just wanted to survive it.”
For decades, they say they didn’t talk about it, not to each other or anyone else.
That changed last month, when one brother says he was triggered after seeing one-time Chicago priest and recently-named Cardinal Wilton Gregory on the news.
He said he blames his past drug abuse and incarceration on the pain caused by the abuse, moving him to write a four page letter to Pfleger about his accusations and demanding $20,000.
St. Sabina leaders say the allegations were made public after Pfleger received the letter, likening it to extortion. He stepped aside from leading St. Sabina as the claims are being investigated.
The man said he was seeking proof of the abuse.
“I asked for money because I had a plan. When I prayed about this and how I was going to do this. If he sent me some money, that was an admission of guilt,” the man said.
Supporters of Pfleger rallied to support him outside the church Monday,
“I hang out at the rectory on a weekly basis and never have I felt uncomfortable or seen anything that would make me question this man’s character,” said parishioner Christopher Jones, Jr.
The brothers, who no longer live in Chicago and were flown in for Monday’s press conference, are seeking compensation from the archdiocese.
“They want Father Pfleger to tell the truth,” attorney Eugene Hollander said. ”What my clients have gone through is absolute hell… they deserve to be compensated for what they’ve gone through.”