Sex Abuse Claims Revealed against Priest

By Patrick Garmoe
Chicago Daily Herald
July 1, 2004

Four men have accused a former Catholic priest who once served in Cary of having sexual relations with them while they were minors, according to a release issued Wednesday by the Catholic Diocese of Rockford.

The priest, William Joffe, was removed from the priesthood in August 1993, after the first allegation of sexual misconduct surfaced.

"He was removed and dismissed and forbidden to practice as a priest from the Catholic Church," said Ellen Lynch, the diocese's attorney.

Another allegation was made in 2002, and two more earlier this year.

Although one civil lawsuit is pending against him, Joffe has not been criminally charged in any of the four incidents.

He has, however, been convicted of embezzling more than $265,000 from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Harvard between 1983 and 1987.

The first allegation, made in 1993, stemmed from a 1965 incident, when Joffe worked at St. Patrick Parish in Dixon.

On July 26, 1993, after the allegation, Joffe was removed from his assignment in Amboy, Ill., at another church called St. Patrick Parish.

Then in 2002, the second claim of sexual misconduct was filed with the diocese.

That man said Joffe engaged in sexual misconduct with him in 1973, while a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Morrison, when he also was director of religious education at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.

Citing privacy matters, Lynch would not comment on whether it was through the churches or schools that Joffe met his accusers.

In March of 2004, the diocese received the final two allegations. Two men claimed in separate incidents that Joffe engaged in sexual misconduct with them while he was a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Woodstock. One man said the incident or incidents occurred in 1979, and another in 1983, according to the prepared release.

Besides being pastor at the Woodstock church, from 1973 until 1983, Joffe was also administrator of St. Patrick Parish in Hartland and co-director of religious education at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, according to the release.

Joffe was at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Cary only from Aug. 3, 1987, through Nov. 20, 1987, before he was suspended for embezzlement while at his previous post in Harvard.

No one at Ss. Peter and Paul could be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Joffe, who now lives in Florida, could not be reached for comment.

Lynch said the effort to alert the public grew out of the decision by the Catholic Church to be more open in these matters.

"We're coming forward because of the numbers that have come forward," she said, speaking of the four potential victims. "We think it's important that the public knows. We're living in an open and transparent environment now."

She was careful to say that diocese officials are not certain the allegations against Joffe are true.

"We have not concluded that Father Joffe did this," she said.

Church officials also are requesting that if other victims of priest abuse exist, they call police and the victim's hotline.

"If you or someone you know has been the victim of abuse by a priest or deacon of the diocese, or by a diocesan employee or volunteer, I urge you to come forward," said Diocese Bishop Thomas G. Doran said in a written statement.

The victim assistance line for the diocese is (815) 962-9347.


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