Area Priest Cleared of Abuse Allegations
By Randy Dockendorf
Press & Dakotan
November 11, 2016
A Catholic priest serving two Bon Homme County parishes has been exonerated from a decades-old child sexual abuse allegation in Minnesota and will resume his ministry next week.
Next Tuesday, the Rev. Joe Forcelle will return to his pastoral ministry at Saint Leo Church in Tyndall and Saint Vincent Church in Springfield.
Bishop Paul Swain of the Diocese of Sioux Falls announced Forcelle’s full reinstatement in a statement posted Thursday on the diocesan website.
Swain placed the priest on administrative leave Sept. 21 as standard procedure following an allegation that came forward through legal proceedings involving the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese.
The abuse allegedly took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Forcelle was serving as a priest at Saint Mark parish in St. Paul, Minn. The archdiocese reported the allegation to civil authorities.
Forcelle denied the allegations.
Swain noted no prior accusations of child sexual abuse involving Forcelle had been received by the Sioux Falls diocese since the priest’s arrival in 1984. In addition, there have been no allegations received since public announcement of Forcelle’s leave from public ministry.
The bishop’s reinstatement of Forcelle came after law enforcement officials announced they would not pursue a criminal investigation against the priest. In addition, a private investigator found no foundation for the allegation.
“After having been presented the findings of the investigation, the Diocesan Review Board concluded that the facts asserted do not substantiate this allegation,” Swain said Thursday.
“I accept the counsel of the Diocesan Review Board. Therefore, I have restored Father Joseph Forcelle’s faculties and reinstated him to public ministry with the fullest confidence in him as priest and minister of the Church.”
Forcelle’s administrative leave was taken for several purposes, Swain said in his statement.
“In accord with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Persons, Father Forcelle’s leave was standard procedure and is threefold in its purpose: to ensure the safety of all children, to allow for an impartial investigation to be undertaken and to protect the rights of Father Forcelle as defined in both civil and Church law.”
Forcelle was exonerated on two levels, Swain noted.
“Subsequent to being notified of the accusation, law enforcement in Minnesota indicated that a criminal investigation would not be initiated,” the bishop said.
“Therefore, a private investigator was appointed to conduct an investigation. In the Diocese’s effort to seek the truth, the investigator was charged to search for facts that would support the accusation.
“After having been presented the findings of the investigation, the Diocesan Review Board concluded that the facts asserted do not substantiate this allegation.”
Diocesan Chancellor Matt Althoff told the Press & Dakotan Friday there would be no further comment from the diocese or Fr. Forcelle at this time.
An interim pastor was serving the Tyndall and Springfield parishes during Forcelle’s absence.
Prior to his current parish assignments, Forcelle served in a number of ministries. He served at Immaculate Conception parish in Watertown prior to his current pastorate.
In addition, he has served campus ministry at South Dakota State University in Brookings and the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. While at USD, he also served as parish priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Wakonda.