Ex-Priest in Rockford Diocese Sued over Alleged Sex Abuse

By Amie Shak
Chicago Daily Herald
February 10, 2006

A lawsuit has been filed against a former priest who had been employed by parishes in Woodstock, Aurora, Rockford, Harvard and Cary.

Andrew Howell, 38, claims he was sexually abused by William Joffe when Howell was a parishioner of Saint Mary Church and a student at Saint Mary Catholic School, 313 N. Tryon St., Woodstock.

Howell stated that he began having memories of being sexually abused by Joffe about two years ago, Cook County court documents show.

He claims that when he was 8 years old, Joffe accompanied his family on vacation and went on retreats to a farm where Joffe engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with him.

Joffe was removed from the priesthood in November 1993 after a separate allegation of sexual misconduct. After being removed for that allegation, three more claims of misconduct were reported against him, records from the Diocese of Rockford show.

Joffe never has been criminally charged in the cases.

But Joffe has done time. Joffe was sentenced to prison in January 1992 on four counts of bank fraud and three counts of interstate transportation of stolen securities in July 1991 after he was discovered to have mismanaged temporal goods at St. Joseph Parish in Harvard, diocese documents show.

After being indicted by a federal grand jury, Joffe was sentenced to one year in prison and five years probation, which included 300 hours of community service and a $27,500 restitution payment to Walworth State Bank in Wisconsin.

When Joffe was released from prison in 1993, he was assigned to assist as a priest at a parish in Amboy, documents show. It was that year the diocese reports to have received the first allegation of sexual misconduct against Joffe, from when he was an associate at a parish in Dixon in 1965. Later that year, Joffe was removed from the priesthood.

In 2002, the second claim of sexual misconduct was reported, allegations from when Joffe was a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Morrison and a teacher at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.

In March 2004, both Howell and another man separately alleged that Joffe had engaged in sexual misconduct with them while he was a pastor at St. Mary Parish in Woodstock.

Howell, who now lives in Colorado, names the Catholic Diocese of Rockford in the lawsuit, as well as Ellen Lynch, who, the suit claims, in April 2004 contacted Howell as a representative of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford and left inappropriate comments on a voicemail about Howell and other victims who had experienced sexual assault and abuse by Joffe.

"That this abuse occurred to a child in the 1970s is horrific," Ambroziak & Kitto, LCC - the law firm representing Howell - said in a statement.

"Even more disturbing is the diocese's recent reaction to learning of the abuse in 2004.

"The evidence thus shows that this particular diocese and its agents had no real intention of assisting victims of abuse in good faith," the statement said.

The allegations against Joffe were released in June 2004, the Catholic Diocese of Rockford said in a press release, and noted that Joffe was dismissed from all priestly assignments in Nov. 1993 as a result of the allegations of abuse against him.

"We have referred the matter to our legal counsel, but there is nothing new here other than the complainant's name," diocese spokesman Dr. Owen Phelps said.


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