Another Victim of Fr. Pfleger Comes Forward Despite Demonstrations by Supporters of the Accused Priest
Two survivors have now come forward to accuse a popular Chicago priest of abuse. Time and time again, the first person to come forward encourages another victim who had been staying silent. We would not be surprised if still more survivors are suffering in silence and we hope that they will be encouraged to come forward and get help, despite demonstrations in support of the accused priest.
The case against Fr. Michael Pfleger evolved this week as a second victim came forward. A tragic detail of this story is that both survivors are brothers and that neither knew the other was abused until recently. This is a perfect illustration of how the crime of sexual assault against a child creates lifelong feelings of shame and guilt that cause victims to fear coming forward. That feeling is only amplified when the alleged abuser is powerful and popular. Our hearts break for these two men and we hope that they and their families are getting the support and professional help that they need.
We once again renew our call for those who care about Fr. Pfleger to show their support privately. Cardinal Blase Cupich should call on all parishioners to suspend judgment and to refrain from public demonstrations. The investigation into accusations of the sexual abuse of minors – whether the abuse occurred yesterday or 50 years ago – is complicated and, for the victims, rife with emotional turmoil. There are plenty of ways that supporters of Fr. Pfleger can show their support without driving still-suffering victims even further underground.
A sophisticated study of clerical abuse demonstrates that most priests who hurt children have multiple victims and only a few come forward, nearly none at the time of the abuse. Many will disparage these men for coming forward about decades-old abuse, but the fact is this is the most common scenario. The average age of a survivor coming forward in the US is 52.
Over 7,000 Catholic priests in the United States have abused children, and an investigation into the scope of the problem in Illinois revealed that ¾ of all cases ever reported to Illinois dioceses were ignored or minimized. We can only wonder if someone had come forward previously to report Fr. Pfleger and felt rebuffed or ignored. Only time will tell.
We stand in solidarity with these victims and hope that their courage will inspire others who were hurt to come forward, make a report, and get help.