Carification Yes, Retraction No

By Sue Mergen
The-Bee [Phillips WI]
March 14, 2007

I have had the fortune of getting to know some of the local Catholic community this week thanks to some misinformation they received in church last weekend. I say that not with sarcasm but truth. I was visited many times this week because the parishioners were looking for answers to many questions they had over the reports recently published in THE BEE. Our reports alleged that there may be an additional 15 victims of abuse by Fr. Terrance Fitzmaurice. The local priest feels as though we should retract that information and has taken it upon him to put together a flyer of his own denouncing the statement. He went so far as to hand it out at church services.

To be honest, that disturbs me quite a bit. One, the lawyer we supposedly misquoted does NOT want a retraction. Two, the Chicago FOX news reporter (25 year news veteran and 5 time Emmy winner) that we received the information from is standing by her report. You may read our clarification, not retraction, on page 3.

We have no desire to upset the Catholic community of Phillips. That would be a mistake in such a small town as ours. We have employees here that are members of that church, our children go to the same school with your children, and we see you everyday. We consider you our friends and loyal customers. All this made it a difficult decision to report on any of the information we have on Fr. Terrance Fitzmaurice. It was also difficult because what we read in the reports and what we printed were actually worlds apart. It was not something you would want to read about and I would not want to publish, it is disturbing to say the least. We did, however, share information we thought was important for the community of Phillips to be aware of. Why, you say, what good does it do? It would be a disservice if we didn't, if we neglected to report what was going on in Chicago with a former Phillips priest. It would be keeping the people of Phillips in the dark.

Remember that we are reporting "alleged" abuse; the definition of the word is clear-claimed but not yet proven to have taken place. We have been very meticulous about using that adjective throughout our reports. Sadly, we have had our words twisted into things we had nothing to do with, including the visit from the SNAP organization on February 11 and the priest's handouts during worship services.

As I expressed in the beginning, I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the local Catholic parishioners. They were gracious enough to visit with us and hear the entire story, not just selected pieces of information that benefit arguments that we do not support. We will continue to report on this case as it unfolds, whatever turn it may take. My prayer is that none of this really happened to any child or any person because it is a sad tragedy if it did.


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