Parties Settle in Fitzmaurice Lawsuit

By Patti Wenzel
November 8, 2007

Perry Collins, his mother and the guardian of his estate have settled a sex abuse lawsuit with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the city of Chicago, St. Procopius Abby of Lisle, Ill., the Order of St. Benedict and Fr. Terrance Fitzmaurice for $800,000.

Fr. Fitzmaurice served St. Patrick's Catholic Church and later Our Lady of the North Catholic Church in Phillips from 1987 - 2000.

There have been no formal allegations filed with local authorities or the Superior Archdiocese alleging any misconduct on Fitzmaurice's part while he served the congregations in Phillips.

The settlement includes a "no admission of wrongdoing" clause, which states that the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the party of the church, order, abbey, city or cleric named in the lawsuit. There is no indication as to how the defendants in the case will pay the settlement amount.

The suit, filed last January, alleged that while he was a priest at St. Procopius Catholic Church in Chicago during the 1970s, Fr. Fitzmaurice sexually molested Collins. Fr. Fitzmaurice was a member of the Benedictine Order and St. Procopius Abbey and under the authority of the archdiocese and city at the time of the alleged offenses. Fr. Fitzmaurice supervised and managed a youth work program for the city of Chicago in the St. Procopius parish neighborhood.

Collins had alleged that the archdiocese, order, abbey and city all failed to protect him and others by knowingly allowing Fr. Fitzmaurice to work as a priest after becoming aware of his illegal sexual activities and covered up that fact for decades.

Documents agreeing to the settlement were filed with the U.S. District Court, North District of Illinois and entered by Judge Joan Lefkow on Oct. 23.

Philip Aaron, Collins' attorney, has recently suffered a stroke but was pleased with the outcome of the case.

"The archdiocese and abbey have been cooperative and expressed concern for this victim," Aaron said. "Maybe the Chicago church is coming around to recognize the problem that has occurred."

According to the settlement agreement, $418,000 will be placed in a structured annuity for the benefit of Collins and $94,376 will go into an irrevocable special needs trust. The trust and annuity will be managed by Ruby Harris, an acquaintance of Aaron's and a member of the African American Advocates for Victims of Clergy Abuse.

The settlement calls for Collins to receive $2,325 for monthly medical and living expenses.

Harris was appointed as Collins' limited guardian on Oct. 22 due to his incapacity to make financial decisions for himself. Collins and his attorney have claimed that the alleged abuse by Fr. Fitzmaurice caused significant psychological damage, which led to physical ailments now suffered by Collins.

The remainder of the settlement, $382,000 will be paid to a trust account in the name of Collins' attorney.

Aaron will receive $266,666 from the trust for his fee. The remainder of the trust will be used for expenses incurred by Aaron and his team while representing Collins, including airfare, cell phone bills, expert witnesses and management fees for the guardian.

By signing the agreement, Collins gives up any future rights or claims against the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the city of Chicago, the Order of St. Benedict, St. Procopius Abbey and Fr. Fitzmaurice.

In May 2007, Collins' lawsuit was amended to add four other Chicago-area men and a Milwaukee-area woman to the action. The men, Derwin Frazier, Willie Evans, Dennis Wright and Berna Matlock, will not receive any part of the settlement.

Judge Lefkow's order accepting the settlement terms does note that Vernitta Sample, who claims Fr. Fitzmaurice fathered her 27-year-old son, continues to be named as a plaintiff in the case


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