2006-01-13 / Community

Man Sues Diocese, Military In Actions of Ex-St. Rose Priest

By Howard Schwach

Father Romano Ferraro at his sentencing in MassachusettsFather Romano Ferraro at his sentencing in Massachusetts A Florida man identified only as John Doe is suing both the Brooklyn Diocese and the Archdiocese for Military Services over his childhood sexual abuse, allegedly at the hands of Father Romano Ferraro, who served the St. Rose of Lima parish in Rockaway from 1971 to 1973.

The suit, filed last week in the Sixteenth Judicial Court In and For Monroe County, Florida, alleges that, in 1968, Ferraro was charged with abuse at an unspecified Queens parish and was then transferred by the Brooklyn Diocese to Key West, Florida, where he was assigned to serve as a U.S. Navy Chaplain at Key West Naval Station, where the plaintiff’s father served as a pilot.

The suit alleges that Ferraro, who is now serving life in a Massachusetts prison for child sex abuse, invited groups of boys to his home for pizza parties and used that time “to commit multiple acts of sexual abuse” with the plaintiff and the other boys.

“Father Ferraro walked around his home naked in front of the boys and frequently asked them to sit naked in his lap while he was aroused,” the court papers allege, adding that the abuse continued until 1969, when it was reported to Naval authorities and Ferraro was again transferred.

Two years later, he was assigned as the assistant pastor at St. Rose of Lima, on Beach 84 Street.

The suit alleges that the Diocese of Brooklyn, “rather than removing Father Ferraro from his ministry [when they learned of his abuse in a Queens parish], or taking any other actions to prevent potential harm to other young boys [it] transferred Father Ferraro to Key West where he was to serve as a Chaplain for the United States Navy as part of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.”

The Plaintiff began to understand what was allegedly done to him as a young boy only three years ago with the help of therapy and then decided to bring the suit.

Ferraro was sentenced in May of 2004 to life in prison after being convicted of raping and sexually abusing a Massachusetts boy over a period of six years, more than 20 years ago.

While a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Diocese told The Wave in 2002 that there was no way of knowing what Ferraro’s duties were at St. Rose, a number of men, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, contacted the paper to say that Ferraro had indeed worked with young boys and did sexually assault a number of them in Rockaway.

“Why don’t you take a look at a list of the names of the altar boys who served when Father Ray was in charge. 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 Father Ray had a impact on my life. And I know that there were others because I was a witness to at least one other – Father Ray abused us both at the same time,” one such man told The Wave.

“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 a priest at St. Rose of Lima,” he added. “Never let anybody shake your understanding of that fact.” A mother wrote of Father Ferraro, “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 sexually abused him. We went to the Vicar, who had him removed from St. Rose. He should rot in Hell.”

Attorney Adam Horowitz, who is representing the plaintiff, told The Wave that moving pedophile priests from one place to another was “common at the time.” He says that the church often tried to find “a dumping ground,” a place where the priests would have less contact with children – the military, nursing homes, veteran’s hospitals, but that often, as in Ferraro’s case, it did not work out that way.

The Florida lawsuit seeks compensatory damages costs and “other relief” including punitive damages from both the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

The Brooklyn Diocese declined to comment on the suit.

“After Ferraro’s conviction in Massachusetts, there is no doubt what he did,” Horowitz said. “And there is no doubt that the church knew about it all along.”

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