MA, MO - Victims Applaud Tough Sentence for Abusive Priest
For immediate release:
Thursday, May 20, 2004
For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790 cell David Cerulli of New York, SNAP Board Member (917) 757-1791 cell William Gately of Boston, SNAP Boston Co-Director (508) 743-0297
Cleric Admitted Hurting Kids In At Least Three States
Leaders of the nation's largest support group for clergy molestation victims are applauding a Massachusetts judge who handed down a life sentence today to a former Brooklyn priest who admitted abusing boys.
Associate Justice Raymond J. Brassard of the Middlesex Superior Court today sentenced Father Romano Ferraro, a self-described "predator pedophile", to life imprisonment for his crimes against a Massachusetts child.
"We can only hope that this sentence brings some measure of justice and healing to the victims of Father Ferraro," said David Cerulli of New York. "In addition, we hope that this ruling encourages other victims of this priest to come forward." "Judge Brassard has sent a clear and powerful message that those who harm a child will be required to pay for their crimes," Cerulli said.
Earlier this week, three officials with SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) wrote seeking "a just and appropriate sentence for the horrific crimes" of Father Romano Ferraro. (See text of letter below.) On May 7, a Middlesex County jury found Father Romano Ferraro guilty on one count of child rape and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a boy.
SNAP's letter was signed by leaders in the three states where Ferraro worked. The organization has since learned that Ferraro apparently also worked at St. John Vianney, a parish in Colonia, New Jersey.
"We make this request not to seek vengeance, but in order for justice to be served and to help ensure that children are protected," they wrote. "A just sentence will send a clear and powerful message to anyone who harms a child and insure that those who molest children will be held accountable."
Ferraro also faces at least two civil molestation lawsuits in St. Louis, for victimizing a boy at St. Joan of Arc parish in the early 1980's. (That victim, Timothy J. Bartin of St. Louis, is releasing a statement below.)
During the trial, Ferraro, now 70, admitted victimizing young boys in St. Louis as well as Massachusetts, according to prosecutor Katharine Folger(617 201 0281). Ferraro became a priest in 1960 but has been suspended from active service in New York since the late 1980s, according to one newspaper account. It has been reported that Ferraro testified he had abused mostly prepubescent boys in the parishes he served from New York to St. Louis and as Navy chaplain. (See: "Jury deliberating in priest's rape case", Matt Murphy, Lowell Sun, May 6, 2004, http://www.lowellsun.com/Stories/0,1413,105~4761~2134157,00.html).
The SNAP leaders stated, "Please do not allow yet another pedophile to evade justice. This may be the best and only way for child abusers everywhere to understand the extent of the damage done to children and the price they must pay for their terrible crimes."
The full text of the letter is below. It was sent Tuesday, May 18, 2004 via fax to Justice Brassard.
May 18, 2004
Honorable Raymond J. Brassard Associate Justice of the Middlesex Superior Court 40 Thorndike Street Cambridge, MA 02141
Honorable Raymond J. Brassard:
As leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, we ask that you impose a just and appropriate sentence for the horrific crimes committed by Father Romano Ferraro. We make this request not to seek vengeance, but in order for justice to be served and to help ensure that children are protected. A just sentence will send a clear and powerful message to anyone who harms a child and insure that those who molest children will be held accountable.
Father Ferraro has admitted to leaving a trail of broken lives when he confessed to abusing mostly prepubescent boys in the parishes he served from New York to St. Louis, and as a Navy chaplain, over his 30 year career as a priest. Fr. Ferraro's age should not make a difference when sentencing him. Molesters will molest no matter their age, so being elderly does not make him less of a public safety risk to children. Further, Ferraro did not take age into consideration when he decided to sexually abuse underage children.
Father Ferraro has caused the children he abused to serve a lifetime sentence of pain. It is only fitting that he be given an equivalent sentence for his heinous crimes against innocent children. We implore you to see that justice is done by imposing the most stringent sentence possible for the crimes committed by Ferraro.
As children raised in the Catholic faith ourselves, we are acutely aware of the "power of the collar." It is this power that gives a priest access to children, and it is this power, when misused, that causes children to be most devastated by a deep spiritual betrayal of trust. Please do not allow yet another pedophile to evade justice. This may be the best and only way for child abusers everywhere to understand the extent of the damage done to children and they must be held accountable for their terrible crimes.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, MO, SNAP National Director
David Cerulli of New York, NY, SNAP Board Member
William Gately of Boston, MA, SNAP Local Leader
STATEMENT BY ONE OF FERRARO'S VICTIMS
"It is my plea that the Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will punish Romano Ferraro to the fullest ability of the law. No man or institution should be above the law and the justice due for a crime of this nature. Romano Ferraro and men like him have harmed the very future of our world--little children. I can not fathom why he would be deserving of any leniency in his sentencing. I request this because of the torment his heinous crimes have caused his victims and because of his betrayal of the trust of those who put their children in his guardianship. I also believe, due to the nature of his repetitive behavior, and clever cunningness, he can not be considered safe in normal society, no matter what his age. I hope the court will give Ferraro a sentence, using his words, "that will please the children"--life in prison.
No one will ever know how many lives his actions affected. Give him the rest of his life to think about it in prison.
I am familiar with several victims that priests have abused and many of them have greatly disturbed lives. As I write this, I can hear the bell ringing at the church where I grew up. The bell only reminds me of the vile behavior of several priests I have known as I went through the system in the church. Please bring justice to Romano Ferraro and his victims."
Timothy J. Bartin of St. Louis
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.