2002-04-13 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

When The Wave ran the front-page story last week about the fact that Father Romano Ferraro, the priest who has been extradited to Massachusetts to face charges of rape and child molestation, had once served in St. Rose of Lima Church in Rockaway, we expected that it would be a controversial story, but one that we had to cover.

That expectation has been fulfilled; often in ways that we did not fully expect and do not quite understand.

A number of complaints came not because we ran the story, but because we ran the picture of the church building along with the story.

"There has been enough coverup," one Irish Catholic woman who visited The Wave offices told me. "But you should never have used the picture of the church today."

"Using that picture is an indictment of Father Peter and the others who are there today," she told me.

When I explained that, to us, using that picture to illustrate the story was no different than the previous week when we used a picture of the old courthouse to illustrate a story on the revitalization of that building.

She wasn’t buying it.

Others condemned not only our use of the church as an illustration, and the prominent position we gave it but our use of the story at all.

"Please cancel my subscription immediately," one woman wrote. "The story involving St. Rose of Lima in the 4/6 edition was so important that it needed to be splashed across all five columns on the front page. As a long-time parishioner of St. Rose and knowing how much of an asset the parish is to the entire Rockaway community, I was disgusted to see this article placed so prominently. To add insult to injury, it was not even well written and it was clear that the background research was minimal."

"Based on Mr. Schwach’s story, he undoubtedly considers both St. Rose Of Lima and Father Ferraro guilty of child molestation. There must have been a secret trial," another wrote. "In his inept writing, Schwach could not prove that Father Ferraro molested anybody during the time he was at St. Rose. I elect Mr. Schwach as the chief Catholic Basher in Rockaway."

There is, however, some evidence that Father Ferraro, who reportedly was in charge of both the teen club and the alter boys while he was at St. Rose of Lima, did sexually molest a number of Rockaway youth.

One parishioner e-mailed us, "I do not know why some of the older parishioners at St. Rose will not comment about Father Ray. I am sure that they know that there were many problems with him. My (child) was abused by him and we went to the pastor at the time, Father Karl, who did nothing. Father Ferraro admitted in front of us and the pastor that he did sexually abuse my (child). We went to the Vicar, who had him removed from St. Rose. He should rot in hell."

Another wrote, "The diocese knows exactly what role the good father played. When De Rosa (the diocese spokesperson) told you that he was not in charge of the parish, little bells should have gone off in your collective heads. The priest in charge of the alter boys is always an underling, if there is one. At St. Rose of Lima, there were usually 2-3 priests, one of them the pastor and another assigned to the alter boys."

"Why don’t you look for a list of the alter boys during that time frame," the writer adds. "That is, if those documents haven’t been somehow lost. You will find a list of men, some of whose lives were changed by Father Ray. My name will be there. You can bet that our Father Ray had an impact on my life. And I know that there are others because I was a witness to at least one other – Father Ray assaulted us both at the same time."

"As a man of honor, I can tell you that Father Ray repeatedly committed the sexually abusive acts of a pedophile during his tenure as priest at St. Rose of Lima. Never let anybody shake your understanding of that fact."

I have asked a number of these correspondents to "go on the record." So far, for a number of reasons, they have refused to do so.

Are their stories true? I believe that they are. There is a sense of deep hurt in the messages.

I am not a Catholic basher and neither is anybody else at The Wave.

This is a story that cries out to be told.

I wrote to one of the people above, "Evil will prevail only if good people refuse to speak out against that evil."

I really believe that.

I really believe that it is time to speak out. Not to satisfy my "Catholic Bashing" spirit. Not to give The Wave a good story.

Rather, so that this never happens again.

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