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  Home :: 2006 November :: Priest tied to abuse ran jobs program

Priest tied to abuse ran jobs program

Poor youths recruited in city work project

By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune staffreporter. Tribune staff reporters Gary Washburn and Matthew Walbergcontributed to this report
Published November 22, 2006

A retired Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting at least 15 boysin the early 1970s met many of those youngsters as a supervisor for ajob-training program run by the city of Chicago, according to lawyersfor the accusers.

Rev. Terence Fitzmaurice, a former associate pastor at St. Procopius,1641 S. Allport St., recruited low-income Latino and African-Americanyouths to earn money by painting rooms, assisting the elderly and doingother chores in the surrounding Pilsen neighborhood.

  He also invited the teens to visit abuilding next to his church that he dubbed "the clubhouse." There hewould abuse some of them in a secluded room while others played airhockey or watched television outside, said Phillip Aaron, a Seattleattorney representing the 15 accusers.

No criminal charges have been filed against Fitzmaurice, and multipleefforts to reach him for comment this week were unsuccessful. Thepriest's religious order, the Order of St. Benedict, and the RomanCatholic Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to a six-figure settlement withthree of Aaron's clients earlier this year, though the agreement doesnot address whether their allegations are credible. Negotiationscontinue over the other men's claims.

The accusationssurrounding Fitzmaurice hint at how the scandal over abusive priestshas scarred more than just the Catholic faithful. Because churchministries have provided many social services in the city, priests tookunder their wing many children from blighted neighborhoods who were notCatholic.

Supervised 400 teens

It also showsthat the church was not the only institution overseeing the work ofclergy. A 1976 document from the Mayor's Office of Manpower statesFitzmaurice supervised nearly 400 young men and women that year as partof the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program, which receivedsubstantial federal funding.

Fitzmaurice is quoted in thereport as saying the program's goal was to "instill pride in a childand give him some training skill, which will help him make a living forhimself." It was unclear Tuesday if the city paid Fitzmaurice for hiswork, which began in 1969 and continued for at least a decade,according to Aaron.

Aaron has not sued the city over the abuse allegations.

"Suing the government is not the best way to spend your time if youhave other potential defendants," he said. "It's much simpler for us todeal with the archdiocese and the Benedictines, to get services set upand leave it to them to deal with the city's culpability in this."

The church is "motivated" to reach resolution in such cases and offerhelp, Aaron said, and "the most important thing is for these people toget treatment."

Susan Burritt, a spokeswoman for thearchdiocese, echoed that sentiment, adding that a settlement is not anadmission of guilt by church officials. The settlement is intended as astep toward healing, she said.

"Oftentimes, especially in oldercases, the settlement is really in the nature of a pastoral outreachfor the person affected," Burritt said.

Priest's order ran parish

She said the archdiocese is not investigating the allegations becausethe parish was run by the Benedictine order at the time and Fitzmauriceis a Benedictine.

Abbott Dismas Kalcic, head of the St.Procopius Abbey in Lisle, would not comment on the allegations againstFitzmaurice or say where the priest, 79, resides. He is no longer inactive ministry, Kalcic said.

Now 47 and living in Bellwood,Michael Calvin said he met Fitzmaurice at age 13 when he and twofriends who lived in Lawndale caught wind that a priest at a Pilsenparish was offering summer jobs for minimum wage.

Calvinvisited St. Procopius with some friends and was hired in 1971 to paintcity streets and remove graffiti from alleys. The priest recruitedother African-American teens by driving to public housing on the WestSide and introducing himself, Calvin said.

The kids in Lawndaleoften mistook the priest for a policeman because he drove a Chevroletand rarely wore his collar, Calvin said.

Priest seen as mentor
alvin said he saw Fitzmaurice not as apriest but as a mentor who provided salvation from the streets throughgainful employment.

But over the next three years, Calvin said,the priest took him or one of his friends into a secluded room of theclubhouse, gave them massages, unbuckled their pants and performed oralsex on them.
Calvin said he did not report theabuse, which occurred every week or so, until recently because thepriest told him to keep it a secret and took care of his family.

"When I realized he was doing something he shouldn't be doing,actually, I found myself trying to protect Father Terence," Calvin said.

Calvin was not Catholic. In fact, he was not religious at all. He simply needed a job.

Providing summer jobs for youths in impoverished neighborhoods was apriority of Mayor Richard J. Daley's administration. In 1969, the mayorset a goal of finding summer jobs for 35,000 youths and partnered withthe Archdiocese of Chicago School Board to help screen job applicants.

Fitzmaurice had already emerged as a community activist who wasinstrumental in organizing youths against gang violence and became aleader in the jobs program.

In 1973 the federal governmentbegan dispensing millions of dollars under the Comprehensive EmploymentTraining Act, a federal program to train workers and provide them withjobs in public service. Some of that money went to Daley's summer jobsinitiative.

Program big in Pilsen

By 1976, theSt. Procopius-based program was one of the largest such efforts underway in Chicago. Participants--80 percent of them Latino--worked at avariety of jobs throughout the Pilsen neighborhood, including groceryshopping, washing dishes, tutoring children and doing yard work. Theyalso were required to spend up to half their time in classes.

Fitzmaurice was the last Benedictine priest to serve at St. Procopius,which has been run by the archdiocese since 1980. In retirement, hepursued a career as a self-taught artist. A collection of 14 abstractpaintings by Fitzmaurice were featured in an exhibit in 2000 atBenedictine University in Lisle.

Messages for Fitzmaurice left with the Benedictine abbot drew no response Tuesday.



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