Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Filed against 2 Priests

By Don Babwin
Associated Press, carried in Chicago Sun-Times
February 10, 2006

The family of a boy who says he was sexually abused by a Chicago Catholic priest last year and a man who claims he was abused by another Illinois priest in the 1970s filed separate lawsuits Thursday.

One of the suits stems from allegations against the Rev. Daniel McCormack that surfaced last month when the 37-year-old priest was removed from a West Side parish and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he repeatedly molested two boys between 2001 and 2005.

The lawsuit, filed in Chicago and seeking more than $50,000, names the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George. The diocese and George came under fire because McCormack was only removed from his duties the day he was charged-- months after an allegation was made last August. George has conceded that he failed to act soon enough in the case.

The boy's attorney, Jeff Anderson, said McCormack is not named in part because George and the diocese should be held most responsible for what happened to his client.

"McCormack doesn't have control of his sexual impulses," Anderson said. "It is the Cardinal and the diocese that had control over this priest and it is the cardinal who took the risk and made the choice of putting an offending priest in a parish without warning."

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer declined to comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.

In the second lawsuit

  • also filed in Chicago and seeking more than $50,000-- Andrew Howell, 38, claims he began to remember two years ago that he'd been sexually abused by William Joffe while attending a Catholic school in Woodstock in the late 1970s. Howell now lives in Colorado.

    Joffe was removed from the priesthood in 1993 after an allegation of sexual abuse was made to church officials. The Rockford Catholic Diocese says at least four people brought abuse allegations against Joffe between 1993 and 2004.

    Joffe never has been criminally charged in the cases. He was convicted of embezzling more than $265,000 from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Harvard in the 1980s.

    Howell's lawsuit names Joffe; Ellen Lynch, an attorney representing the diocese; and Monsignor David Kagan.

    Howell's attorney, Matt Karchmar, said Lynch and Kagan in April 2004 left a voicemail for Howell offering assistance. Then, he said, the two can be heard on the voicemail talking to each other.

    "They made rude, derogatory comments regarding my client's sexual orientation as well as the abuser (Joffe) and other people the abuser supposedly assaulted," Karchmar said. He declined to release the tape or a transcript.

    Lynch declined to comment because she is a defendant in the lawsuit. Diocese spokesman Owen Phelps said the diocese addressed the allegations in 2004 when it released a chronology of the alleged instances of abuse.

    Joffe, who now lives in For Myers, Fla., declined to comment when he was reached by phone on Thursday.


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