2 New Priest-Abuse Claims Filed

By Edith C Webster
Rockford Register Star
July 1, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Rockford announced Wednesday that it received new allegations of sexual misconduct against a priest who made headlines 13 years ago for embezzlement.

In March, two adult males made separate allegations that 73-year-old William Joffe had "engaged in sexual misconduct" with them while he was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Woodstock. One incident was to alleged to have happened in 1979, the other in 1983.

The diocese has twice before received allegations against the same priest, in 2002 and 1993.

Joffe, who was dismissed from priestly duties in 1993 by then-Bishop Arthur J. O'Neill, served a year in prison in 1992 for taking more than $265,000 in church funds.

Bishop Thomas Doran said the diocese cannot confirm the allegations. He is going public with the allegations "in the interests of openness and transparency."

Joffe has been notified of the allegations and denies them, diocesan officials said. Officials did not reveal Joffe's location, except to say that he is living outside Illinois without financial support from the diocese.

The diocese released information about the allegations against Joffe as quickly as it could, given the time needed to investigate the most recent allegations, attorney Ellen Lynch said.

"We don't make these decisions lightly," she said. "We contemplated this, discussed it and prayed over it."

No criminal charges were filed based on the decades-old allegations, but there is at least one civil suit pending, Lynch said. She would not give information on the plaintiff or when the suit was filed.

According to diocesan officials, the earliest allegation against Joffe came in 1993, which the adult male accuser said occurred in 1965, when he was a minor and Joffe was an associate at St. Patrick Parish in Dixon.

In July 1993, the diocese removed Joffe from his assignment at St. Patrick Parish in Amboy. He moved from the diocese in August 1993 and has not lived here since then, diocesan officials said.

The diocese received a second allegation of sexual misconduct in 2002, from another adult male who said that Joffe engaged in sexual misconduct with him as a minor in 1973. Joffe was a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Morrison and on the faculty at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling during the time of the alleged misconduct.

Doran thanked all who came forward with allegations and encouraged others to do the same.

"The diocese is reaching out to those individuals in various ways," he said. "Counseling and victim assistance has been offered to such individuals as a matter of course in these unfortunate situations."

Contact: ewebster@registerstar, 815-987-1394; gnikolai@registerstar, 815-987-1337


For help

Anyone wishing to report an incident of sexual misconduct or abuse should call local police. The Catholic Diocese of Rockford offers a victim's assistance hot line: 815-962-9347.

On the Web

The diocese site is

Chronology of events and assignments regarding William Joffe

May 25, 1957: Ordained at St. James pro-Cathedral by the Most Rev. Loras T. Lane

June 12, 1957: Assistant pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Savanna

Feb. 2, 1958: Graduate work in journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee

Sept. 15, 1958: Assistant pastor at St. Peter Parish in Rockford; also assistant editor of The Observer

Aug. 16, 1961: Assistant pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Aurora

June 18, 1965: Assistant pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Dixon

June 6, 1969: Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Morrison; also director of religious education at Newman Catholic High School in Sterling

Sept. 5, 1973: Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Woodstock; also administrator of St. Patrick Parish in Hartland and co-director of religious education at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock

July 15, 1983: Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Harvard

Aug. 3, 1987: Pastor of SS Peter & Paul Parish in Cary

Dec. 3, 1987: Joffe was suspended from active ministry and deprived of his faculties to function as a priest when the diocese discovered he had mismanaged the temporal goods of St. Joseph Parish in Harvard from 1983 to 1987.

July 30, 1991: A federal grand jury in Milwaukee indicted Joffe on four counts of bank fraud and three counts of interstate transportation of stolen securities.

Jan. 13, 1992: Joffe was sentenced to one year in prison and five years' probation. Under terms of his probation, Joffe had to serve 300 hours of community service and pay $27,000 in restitution to Walworth State Bank in Wisconsin.

Oct. 20, 1992: Joffe was assigned to provide weekend clergy assistance as sacramental priest only to St. Flannen Parish in Harmon, St. Patrick Parish in Maytown and St. Mary Parish in Walton. The assignment was made when Joffe was released from prison.

Jan. 13, 1993: Joffe was assigned to provide clergy assistance as a sacramental priest only to St. Patrick Parish in Amboy.

July 26, 1993: The diocese removed Joffe from his assignment at St. Patrick Church in Amboy after it received the first allegation of sexual misconduct against Joffe. The alleged misconduct occurred in 1965, when Joffe was an associate at St. Patrick Parish in Dixon.

On or about Aug. 4, 1993: Joffe left the diocese.

Nov. 12, 1993: Diocese gave Joffe formal notification that he is forbidden to serve as a priest.

2002: Second claim of sexual misconduct by Joffe was reported to the diocese. It reportedly occurred in 1973, while Joffe was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Morrison and teacher at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.

March 2004: Two adult males alleged that Joffe had engaged in sexual misconduct with them while he was pastor at St. Mary Parish in Woodstock. One alleged the misconduct occurred in 1979; the other alleged it occurred in 1983.

Other cases

May 2002: Bishop Thomas Doran says the Rockford diocese removed the Rev. Harlan Clapsaddle from a Dixon church in 1997 after Kevin Misslich and his two brothers accused him of abusing them when they were children in the late 1970s. The Missliches go public with their accusations, and Clapsaddle is relieved of ministerial duties. The priest moves to Florida and receives financial support from the Rockford diocese.

June 2002: Two men make sexual-abuse allegations against the Rev. Ted Feely, who served at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Rockford. Feely, a Franciscan, went to California in 1972 and was there until his death in 1991. Feely served at St. Anthony at the time it was operated by the Franciscan friars of the Province of St. Bonaventure, Chicago. Because of that, the Rockford diocese was not involved in the inquiry or any follow-up. St. Anthony property has since become part of the diocese.

August 2002: Ronald J. Zaha of Scottsdale, Ariz., says the Rev. James Gaynor repeatedly abused him from 1963 to 1965, when he was 4 and 5 and Gaynor was assigned to the family's home parish, St. Rita of Cascia in Aurora. When Zaha went to diocesan officials in September 2000 with his allegations, Monsignor David Kagan informed him that the priest died of AIDS in 1991.

September 2002: Allegations surface against a second priest who served at St. Anthony of Padua. The Rev. Edwin Banach died in 1984. He was investigated by the Franciscan friars, who operated St. Anthony from 1963 to 1970, when the sexual misconduct against two boys allegedly occurred.

December 2002: The Rev. Mark Campobello is removed from duties at St. James Parish in Belvidere after his arrest on charges of criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse. He is accused of abusing a girl between January and May 1999 in Geneva. Before he goes to trial, another girl goes to police with similar allegations, and a second set of charges is brought. In May 2004, Campobello agrees to a plea bargain in which he admits guilt to one count involving each girl and is sentenced to eight years in prison.

Ongoing: One of Campobello's victims files a civil suit alleging that the diocese should have known about Campobello and protected her. Also, a Kane County court continues deliberating whether the diocese must release personnel files on Campobello


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