Authorities Not Pursuing Charges against Area Priest
By Randy Dockendorf
Press and Dakotan
September 30, 2016
|Fr. Joe Forcelle|
Minnesota authorities are not pursuing a criminal investigation into a sex-abuse allegation against a Roman Catholic priest currently serving two Bon Homme County parishes.
The Rev. Joe Forcelle faces the Minnesota allegation based earlier in his ministry. He currently serves St. Leo Church in Tyndall and St. Vincent Church in Springfield. He denies the Minnesota allegation and has not faced any allegations during his 32-year ministry in South Dakota.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Forcelle and immediately reported it to law enforcement, according to archdiocesan spokesman Tom Halden.
“The alleged sexual abuse is from the late 1970s and early 1980s when (Forcelle) was serving as a priest at Saint Mark Church in Saint Paul,” Halden said in a statement.
“The St. Paul Police Department advised that there would not be a criminal investigation and gave permission to the archdiocese to take action, including making this disclosure.”
Halden did not have an immediate response Friday for the Press & Dakotan on whether the archdiocese was conducting its own investigation.
Upon learning of the allegation, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis notified the Diocese of Sioux Falls, where Forcelle has been serving since 1984.
Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls has placed Forcelle on administrative leave. The diocese took the action as part of its standard practice, the bishop said.
“As a result of diocesan policies and the guidelines of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Persons that apply in all similar circumstances, Father Forcelle — who denies the allegation — has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of an independent investigation,” the bishop said.
The Minnesota allegation came forward through current legal proceedings involving the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, Swain said.
“The allegation has not been made directly to the Diocese of Sioux Falls and, since his arrival to the (Sioux Falls) Diocese in 1984, no allegations have been made toward Father Forcelle,” the bishop said.
Forcelle, 63, was ordained in May 1980 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to an archdiocesan statement.
He served as an associate priest at St. Olaf Church in Minneapolis in 1980-81 and as an associate pastor for St. Mark Church in St. Paul from 1981-84.
Forcelle then served as director of the Office of Youth Ministry from the Diocese of Sioux Falls starting in 1984.
He has served in various parish and campus ministries while in the Diocese of Sioux Falls. His previous pastorates include St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion and St. Patrick Church in Wakonda.
He has also served in campus ministry at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
Before his assignment to the Tyndall and Springfield parishes, Forcelle served at Immaculate Conception Church in Watertown.
During Forcelle’s current administrative leave, a replacement priest has been named for the Tyndall and Springfield parishes, according to the churches’ bulletin posted online.
The Rev. Robert Vinslauski is filling in during Forcelle’s absence this weekend for all Masses. The bulletin noted it was uncertain if daily Masses will be celebrated.
Vinslauski is listed as holding a Ramona address, according to the diocesan priest directory.
Forcelle provided the following message in the online parish bulletin:
“Thank you to all who have sent prayers and words of support for me. Please continue to pray for my accuser, too,” he said.
“I will not be returning messages or emails, but I can accept written notes. Please send them to me via the bishop’s office.
“Your support is very much appreciated.”