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Local

Four former Sauk Valley priests accused of child sex abuse

Four former Sauk Valley priests from the Diocese of Rockford – including one accused of abusing children in Dixon and Morrison – are among almost 400 priests and laypeople accused of child sexual abuse statewide, according to a report released this morning by a Minnesota law firm.

One of the four served in Dixon nearly a decade in the 1980s and '90s, until abuse allegations surfaced and he was removed, the report shows. One served in Lee County as recently as 2006; one served in Dixon as far back as 1943, the report shows. Two have since died.

The 185-page report from Jeff Anderson & Associates, a firm that focuses on civil litigation involving victims of childhood sexual abuse, includes background information, photographs and assignment histories of 395 Catholic clergy and laypeople who worked or continue to work in the Diocese of Rockford, which covers Lee, Whiteside, Ogle, Carroll and seven other counties, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield.

Information in "The Anderson Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese and Dioceses in Illinois" was derived from publicly available sources, claims made by survivors to the dioceses and religious orders responsible for the offenders, and legal settlements made as a result of claims for child sexual abuse, its authors said.

"While lawsuits were filed involving many of these alleged perpetrators, the vast majority of the claims against these individuals have been settled or have not been fully evaluated in a civil or criminal court," the firm said in the report.

"Accordingly, in most cases the allegations have not been proved or substantiated in a court of law. Consequently, unless otherwise indicated, all of the allegations should be considered just allegations and should not be considered proven or substantiated in a court of law. In some situations, the statute of limitations has expired, preventing the merits of the allegations from being considered by a court of law."

In January, the state Attorney General's Office released preliminary findings of its investigation of sexual abuse claims within the Catholic Church.

The office claimed to know of more than 500 clergy members accused of sexually abusing minors, although its report did not include the accused persons' names or confirm the dioceses to which they belonged.

Anderson's full report is available with this story at saukvalley.com.

Its accusations against the four priests, who served in various capacities in Dixon, Morrison, Sterling, Amboy, Harmon, Lee and Savanna, are outlined here:

• The late Rev. William I. Joffe, accused of sexually abusing at least seven children and named in at least one civil lawsuit, served from 1966 to '69 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Dixon, from 1970 to '73 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Morrison, and from 1992 to '93 at St. Patrick’s in Amboy.

He also was director and co-director of religious education at Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.

Joffe also was accused of sexually abusing children Woodstock, where he worked from 1974 to '83.

Joffe was placed on leave in December 1987 after being accused of mismanaging parish funds at St. Joseph’s in Harvard; he pleaded guilty in 1991 to embezzling $265,000 and was sentenced to a year in prison and 5 years’ probation.

He was reassigned to St. Patrick’s in Amboy the following year, and was abruptly removed from ministry the year after the first allegation of child sexual abuse was made against him.

In 2018, Joffe was included in the diocese list of “priests against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been reported.”

It is believed that after the Rockford diocese removed Joffe from ministry, he moved to Florida where he died in 2008. From 1994 until his death, his status as a priest and whether he had access to children is not known.

• The Rev. Harlan B. Clapsaddle served at St. Anne Catholic Church in Dixon from 1988 to '97, when the diocese removed him after he was accused of child sexual abuse.

In the late '70s, Clapsaddle is alleged to have sexually abused three brothers while he worked as a deacon at St. James in Rockford. The Rockford diocese found the allegations credible and sent him to treatment before he was reassigned to minister to the elderly at Provena Cor Mariae Center in Rockford.

The allegations were made public in 2002, and that May 3, he resigned from his position at the center and the diocese transferred him to an undisclosed location to stay with friends.

In 2018, Clapsaddle was included in the Diocese of Rockford’s list of “priests against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been reported.”

From 2002 to the present, his status as a priest, whereabouts, and whether he has access to children are not known.

• The Rev. William D. Virtue served for less than a year at St. Flannen in Harmon in 2003, and from 2004 to 2006 in Lee, a village that straddles the border of Lee and DeKalb counties.

He was ordained from the Diocese of Joliet in 1975. The first reports of child sexual abuse came in 1984; 2 years later he had had left the Joliet diocese and was incardinated into the Diocese of Peoria.

A lawsuit filed in 2006 accused him of repeatedly sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy at St. Mary’s in Mokena in 1981, and he was removed from public ministry in the Diocese of Peoria. In 2007, he reportedly was working in the Diocese of Rockford but was removed from all public ministry by 2009.

He was named on the Diocese of Joliet’s list of “Diocesan priests with credible allegation(s) of sexual misconduct with minors made against them while serving in the Diocese of Joliet” with “credible allegations and canonical process pending,” the Diocese of Peoria’s list of “priests removed from Ministry due to abuse of minor” and the Diocese of Rockford’s list of “religious order priests/brothers or priests of another diocese, who worked within the geographical boundaries of the Rockford Diocese or were assigned in this Diocese, against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been reported.”

Virtue purportedly was in the process of being laicized; his status as a priest, his whereabouts, and whether he has had access to children from 2007 through today are not known.

• The late Rev. Joseph J.M. Tully serve at St. Patrick's in Dixon in 1943 until being transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas in Freeport in '44. He served at St. John the Baptist in Savanna from 1969 to '71.

In 2018, Tully was included in the Diocese of Rockford’s list of “priests against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been reported.”

From 1972 until his death on 1982, Tully’s status as a priest, whereabouts, and whether he had access to children are not known.

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