Former Phillips priest named in federal lawsuit

Chicago man claims Fitzmaurice, three others, raped him as a child; Attorney claims there are Wisconsin victims

The Bee, Wisconsin/February 7, 2007
By Patti Wenzel

A Chicago man filed a civil lawsuit Jan. 29 alleging that Fr. Terrance Fitzmaurice, who had served at Our Lady of the North Catholic Church in Phillips (St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s), raped him 30 years ago.

Perry Collins, along with his mother Doris Thomas, also alleges that the city of Chicago, Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, St. Procopius Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict in Lisle, Ill., conspired to cover up the priest’s actions because he is an African American.

During an interview with FOX News Chicago, Collins attorney Phillips Aaron also alleged that 15 boys had filed complaints against Fitzmaurice while he was assigned to St. Patrick’s, St. Mary’s and Our Lady of the North parishes in Phillips.

The Catholic Diocese of Superior previously said there have been no reports of misconduct by Fitzmaurice while serving in Phillips. Calls to the diocese concerning the latest accusations were not returned prior to press time.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, Collins alleges that Fitzmaurice took him, then 10, to a building where he was given alcohol and raped by Fitzmaurice and three other priests. The three priests are not identified in court papers.

After the alleged incident, Collins said Fitzmaurice took him home and promised his mother pastoral care and food.

At the time of the alleged incident Fitzmaurice was serving as a pastor at St. Procopius parish on Chicago’s south side and supervised up to 400 young men and women as part of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The program received federal funds and the Archdiocese partnered with the city to help screen job applicants.

In addition to the sexual assault allegations, Collins and Thomas, claim the Chicago Archdiocese, Benedictine order and city of Chicago conspired to keep Fitzmaurice’s actions secret, allowed him to use federal and archdiocesan funds to cover up his alleged actions and conspired to perpetuate a fraud.

The suit also alleges Fitzmaurice violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by using his position as the supervisor of the jobs program to target African-American and other minority children for his alleged crimes.

Aaron had provided this account to THE-BEE in November after the first reports of Fitzmaurice’s alleged misconduct surfaced. He requested this information be kept confidential at that time, since he was in negotiations with the Archdiocese, Order and city concerning the matter.

However, in the ensuing months, discussion between Aaron and the defendants broke down.

“The Archdiocese wasn’t dealing in good faith,” Aaron said after filing the suit.

Aaron said Collins’ situation forced him to move forward with a lawsuit. He said Collins has needed extensive medical and psychological care and tried to commit suicide twice, including hiring someone to kill him. Collins is now physically disabled due to a bullet lodged near his spinal cord from the attempted suicide.

“They said and promised things they didn’t follow through on. This young man’s life has been totally devastated,” Aaron said.

He added that the archdiocese had agreed to commit $1,500 towards a doctor for Collins. That doctor charges $4,000 and Collins is homeless and has no way to pay for the bills.

Aaron’s primary practice is based in Seattle, but he has represented numerous African-American victims of clergy abuse from the Chicago Archdiocese. He also founded African-American Advocates for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse.

What is in the lawsuit?

The lawsuit demands a jury trial and seeks damages for Collins’ and Thomas’ “great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress including physical manifestations of such distress, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, inability to perform daily activities, loss of earning capacity, and has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment and counseling, and all other damages proven at trial.”

The suit seeks redress for eight alleged actions by Fitzmaurice, the church, order and city.

Those acts are:

  • Battery – for the alleged acts involved in the sexual assaults.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress – because the defendants should have known that the alleged sexual assaults would cause severe emotional distress, especially since Collins was diagnosed as a mentally disabled child.
  • False imprisonment – for allegedly holding Collins against his will.
  • Fiduciary fraud and conspiracy to commit fiduciary fraud – since the church held itself out to be Collins’ religious, emotional and spiritual counselors, they created a fiduciary relationship. The fraud occurred since the church did not allegedly obtain or disclose information concerning Fitzmaurice’s sexual misconduct.
  • Negligent retention and/or supervision – claims both the Archdiocese and Order knew or should have known about Fitzmaurice’s “dangerous and exploitive propensities” and that he was “unfit.” It continues by alleging the church failed to warn Collins and his family of Fitzmaurice’s unfitness and allowed him continued and unfettered access to children and funds to silence his victims.
  • Racial discrimination – because the city and church were receiving and managing federal funds in connection with the summer youth jobs program, they were required to abide by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1893 and 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    The suits claims not only did Fitzmaurice target minorities through the jobs program and allegedly use federal funds to maintain his secret, but that the Archdiocese and Order continue to practice racial discrimination by not offering the same assistance and redress to minority victims of clergy abuse, as is offered to white victims.
  • RICO violations (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) – because the Archdiocese, Order and city entered into an enterprise relationship to conspire and conceal the sexual misconduct of Fitzmaurice and aiding him in evading criminal prosecution and liability. Among the charges the lawsuit alleges is that Fitzmaurice, the church and city allowed for the creation of ghost workers on the jobs program payroll, falsifying workers ages to gain additional funds and using those funds to transport children for illegal purposes.

    Typically, RICO violations are charged against organized crime syndicates and protesters that infringe on interstate commerce.
  • Fraudulent concealment – because the defendants took specific actions to prevent Collins from acknowledging his alleged injuries and kept him from revealing the nature of the relationship with Fitzmaurice.

The suit goes further; alleging that the Archdiocese and Order knew of Fitzmaurice’s history of sexual abuse against minors and failed to disclose the acts alleged or fulfilled their fiduciary obligation to prevent the acts perpetrated against Collins. The Archdiocese and Order also failed to inform others of Fitzmaurice’s history of pedophilia.

Aaron said now that the suit has been filed, he and his client should be able obtain access to church and order’s records concerning Fitzmaurice and others that may have been involved with this case.

He said he has at least 20 other men who have told him similar stories concerning Fitzmaurice and a woman who worked in the St. Procopius rectory while Fitzmaurice served there has also provided information.

Aaron is continuing negotiations with the Chicago Archdiocese and order in regards to the other men, but he does not rule out filing more civil suits to get what his clients need.

In November 2006, the Archdiocese and the Order of St. Benedict agreed to pay a six-figure settlement with three other clients of Aaron, who claimed to be molested by Fitzmaurice.

Fitzmaurice has not been charged criminally in these or the previous allegations.

Fitzmaurice served in Phillips from 1987 to 2000. He returned to the Lisle, Ill. abbey after his retirement. Officials at the abbey said Fitzmaurice is in poor health and living in a nursing home in northern Illinois.

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