Priest Tied to Abuse Ran Jobs Program
Poor Youths Recruited in City Work Project
By Manya A. Brachear, Gary Washburn and Matthew Walberg
November 22, 2006
A retired Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting at least 15 boys in the early 1970s met many of those youngsters as a supervisor for a job-training program run by the city of Chicago, according to lawyers for the accusers.
Rev. Terence Fitzmaurice, a former associate pastor at St. Procopius, 1641 S. Allport St., recruited low-income Latino and African-American youths to earn money by painting rooms, assisting the elderly and doing other chores in the surrounding Pilsen neighborhood.
He also invited the teens to visit a building next to his church that he dubbed "the clubhouse." There he would abuse some of them in a secluded room while others played air hockey or watched television outside, said Phillip Aaron, a Seattle attorney representing the 15 accusers.
No criminal charges have been filed against Fitzmaurice, and multiple efforts to reach him for comment this week were unsuccessful. The priest's religious order, the Order of St. Benedict, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to a six-figure settlement with three of Aaron's clients earlier this year, though the agreement does not address whether their allegations are credible. Negotiations continue over the other men's claims.
The accusations surrounding Fitzmaurice hint at how the scandal over abusive priests has scarred more than just the Catholic faithful. Because church ministries have provided many social services in the city, priests took under their wing many children from blighted neighborhoods who were not Catholic.
Supervised 400 teens
It also shows that the church was not the only institution overseeing the work of clergy. A 1976 document from the Mayor's Office of Manpower states Fitzmaurice supervised nearly 400 young men and women that year as part of the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program, which received substantial federal funding.
Fitzmaurice is quoted in the report as saying the program's goal was to "instill pride in a child and give him some training skill, which will help him make a living for himself." It was unclear Tuesday if the city paid Fitzmaurice for his work, 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 you have other potential defendants," he said. "It's much simpler for us to deal with the archdiocese and the Benedictines, to get services set up and leave it to them to deal with the city's culpability in this."
The church is "motivated" to reach resolution in such cases and offer help, Aaron said, and "the most important thing is for these people to get treatment."
Susan Burritt, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, echoed that sentiment, adding that a settlement is not an admission of guilt by church officials. The settlement is intended as a step toward healing, she said.
"Oftentimes, especially in older cases, the settlement is really in the nature of a pastoral outreach for the person affected," Burritt said.
Priest's order ran parish
She said the archdiocese is not investigating the allegations because the parish was run by the Benedictine order at the time and Fitzmaurice is a Benedictine.
Abbott Dismas Kalcic, head of the St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, would not comment on the allegations against Fitzmaurice or say where the priest, 79, resides. He is no longer in active ministry, Kalcic said.
Now 47 and living in Bellwood, Michael Calvin said he met Fitzmaurice at age 13 when he and two friends who lived in Lawndale caught wind that a priest at a Pilsen parish was offering summer jobs for minimum wage.
Calvin visited St. Procopius with some friends and was hired in 1971 to paint city streets and remove graffiti from alleys. The priest recruited other African-American teens by driving to public housing on the West Side and introducing himself, Calvin said.
The kids in Lawndale often mistook the priest for a policeman because he drove a Chevrolet and rarely wore his collar, Calvin said.
Priest seen as mentor
Calvin said he saw Fitzmaurice not as a priest but as a mentor who provided salvation from the streets through gainful employment.
But over the next three years, Calvin said, the priest took him or one of his friends into a secluded room of the clubhouse, gave them massages, unbuckled their pants and performed oral sex on them.
Calvin said he did not report the abuse, which occurred every week or so, until recently because the priest 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 a priority of Mayor Richard J. Daley's administration. In 1969, the mayor set a goal of finding summer jobs for 35,000 youths and partnered with the Archdiocese of Chicago School Board to help screen job applicants.
Fitzmaurice had already emerged as a community activist who was instrumental in organizing youths against gang violence and became a leader in the jobs program.
In 1973 the federal government began dispensing millions of dollars under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, a federal program to train workers and provide them with jobs in public service. Some of that money went to Daley's summer jobs initiative.
Program big in Pilsen
By 1976, the St. Procopius-based program was one of the largest such efforts under way in Chicago. Participants--80 percent of them Latino--worked at a variety of jobs throughout the Pilsen neighborhood, including grocery shopping, washing dishes, tutoring children and doing yard work. They also 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, he pursued a career as a self-taught artist. A collection of 14 abstract paintings by Fitzmaurice were featured in an exhibit in 2000 at Benedictine University in Lisle.
Messages for Fitzmaurice left with the Benedictine abbot drew no response Tuesday.
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