2 new priest-abuse claims filed

Two men allege separate incidents in 1979 and 1983 by a pastor in Woodstock.

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."

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