Sexually Abusive Priest Sent to Diocese of Metuchen under Mccarrick's Watch
By Nick Muscavage
Bridgewater Courier News
March 28, 2019
A priest who was known by the Catholic Church to have allegedly sexually abused boys was sent from New York to a Diocese of Metuchen church under the watch of then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick.
Clergy abuse victim advocates and an attorney representing victims of the Rev. Romano Ferraro's alleged abuse met Thursday outside St. John Vianney Church in the Colonia section to share documents depicting how Ferraro was transferred from Brooklyn to the Metuchen Diocese.
Church documents and letters shared by attorney Patrick Noaker show how church officials with the Diocese of Brooklyn handled abuse allegations against Ferraro, and how they transferred him to the Diocese of Metuchen with McCarrick's approval.
|A group of clergy abuse victim advocates met with attorney Patrick Noaker on Thursday in Woodbridge to detail how a sexually abusive priest was transferred from New York to the Diocese of Metuchen under then Bishop Theodore McCarrick's watch. (Photo: Nick Muscavage/Staff Photo)|
"Our bishops knew well before that time that this man was an abuser," said Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
"Pedophiles surround themselves with people who will keep secrets," Noaker said. "We're here today to talk about secrets that are being kept by the Diocese of Metuchen by not acknowledging pedophile priests who have been welcome into their diocese over the years, and also bishops who have invited pedophiles into this diocese."
Tara Smith, spokesperson for the Diocese of Metuchen, said that Ferraro was not named by the Diocese of Metuchen as a credibly accused priest because he had come from the Diocese of Brooklyn.
"In an abundance of caution, the Diocese of Metuchen recently hired an independent law firm to again review the files of the 344 diocesan priests, who have served in the diocese since its founding in 1981. The review yielded no new cases," she said in a statement. "The list of 10 diocesan priests, released by the Diocese of Metuchen on Feb. 13, included only the names of those who belonged to the Diocese of Metuchen, as was noted clearly in the disclosure. As a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who served temporarily in the Diocese of Metuchen for two years, Romano Ferraro was not included on the list, but would rather be on the list from the Diocese of Brooklyn."
Noaker said that Ferraro, “was kicked out of the Diocese of Brooklyn after years and years, even decades, of sexual abuse of Brooklyn children and at the time, the new bishop named Theodore McCarrick welcomed him into the Diocese of Metuchen."
Smith, the spokesperson with the Diocese of Metuchen, said neither McCarrick nor Bishop Edward Hughes knew of Ferraro's past.
"The first allegation against Ferraro, resulting from an incident in 1984, was not received by the Diocese of Metuchen until 1991. At that time, Ferraro had been gone from the Diocese of Metuchen for several years," she said. "Neither then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick nor Bishop Edward Hughes had any records to indicate Ferraro had a history of sexual misconduct. Ferraro's faculties and candidacy for becoming a priest of the Diocese of Metuchen were terminated in January 1987, due to matters unrelated at the time to his unknown history of sexual abuse history. We denounce the actions of sexual abuse and stand with the survivors in their healing journey."
Noaker said it's "stunning" because McCarrick, who was defrocked by Pope Francis last month after Vatican officials found him guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults, had risen to the rank of Cardinal, the highest-ranking Catholic position in the United States.
"People sometimes wonder, you hear people say it, 'I think it might be rotten all the way to the top,'" Noaker said. "And they point to Theodore McCarrick as an example of this."
|Rev. Romano Ferraro. (Photo: ~File)|
Ferraro was arrested in April 2002, according to Noakerlaw.com. In May 2004, Ferraro was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for repeatedly raping a boy from 1973 to 1980 in Billerica, Massachusetts, beginning when the boy was 7. At trial, Ferraro admitted he sexually abused dozens of boys.
Massachusetts corrections records show Ferraro is still in prison. Noaker said Ferraro is up for parole in April.
Ferraro was assigned to St. James in Woodbridge in 1984 before moving to Our Lady of Mount Virgin in Middlesex Borough from 1984 to 1985. He then served at St. John Vianney from 1985 to 1986.
Before his Diocese of Metuchen assignments, Ferraro was a chaplain in the U.S. Navy but "had to leave the Navy in 1970 because of one incident of homosexuality," according to a memo written by Msgr. Anthony Bevilacqua, who later became the Archbishop of Philadelphia. The memo was written following an interview with Ferraro conducted by Bevilacqua.
According to documents on Bishop-Accountability.org, a lawsuit was filed by a Navy pilot's son in 2006 alleging that Ferraro, while serving as a chaplain in the Navy, had abused his child when his son was just a young boy at a naval base in Key West, Florida.
|Patrick Noaker, an attorney representing victims of child sexual abuse allegedly at the hands of Rev. Romano Ferraro, outside of St. John Vianney's Church in the Colonia section of Woodbridge. (Photo: Nick Muscavage/Staff Photo)|
"The suit says the Brooklyn Diocese transferred Ferraro to Key West even though they knew he was a serial pedophile," according to the article posted to Bishop-Accountability.org that originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to the memo written by Bevilacqua, the incident in the Navy "involved a 13 to 15 year old boy and it involved the incident of touching one boy in bed."
The same memo described an incident reported to the church by a father of a young boy. During a party at the family's house, Ferraro was wrestling the boys and the "small son of a family that was at the party claimed that Father Ferraro had touched him sexually twice in the evening."
Ferraro admitted to the incident, according to Bevilacqua's memo, and said he may have also made "imprudent suggestive statements or asked suggestive questions."
Ferraro admitted to Bevilacqua that "his major problem is with boys 13 to 15 years of age," according to the letter dated Jan. 10, 1977, less than a decade before his transfer to the Diocese of Metuchen.
|Mark Crawford, the New Jersey director of SNAP, outside of St. John Vianney's Church in the Colonia section of Woodbridge. (Photo: Nick Muscavage/Staff Photo)|
In 1984, the Rev. Msgr. Douglas Brown of the Diocese of Brooklyn wrote a letter to Ferraro informing him that his time in the Diocese of Brooklyn was over.
"For your own person well being and for the good of the diocese," Brown wrote, "it would be much better and more prudent for you to seek an assignment in another diocese where you would have the opportunity to begin anew."
Less than six months later, Ferraro was accepted into the Diocese of Metuchen.
A mother of two boys told a reporter her sons were abused by Ferraro in the mid-1980s while he was assigned to the Diocese of Metuchen, according to an article in the Lowell Sun posted to Bishop-Accountability.org.
|Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who once served as the Bishop of Metuchen. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)|
In 1986, Ferraro was placed on a leave of absence from St. John Vianney, although it wasn't for child sexual abuse.
He was placed on leave in 1986 after he told schoolchildren that Santa Claus is dead.
Ferraro's leave of absence was disclosed during a Mass by the Rev. Francis Sergel, then-pastor of St. John Vianney. He also repeated an apology to parishioners and took responsibility for Ferraro's comments.
Ferraro was not named in the list of clergy deemed to have credible accusations of child sexual abuse by the state's five dioceses, including Metuchen.
Crawford claims Ferraro is not the only one left off the list. He said there are several dozen priests with claims of child sexual abuse who were not named by the church.
"We expect church officials will tell us some of the men they choose not to list were not a member of our diocese," Crawford said. "The fact is, they ministered in our communities for years, which required the express permission of the local bishop.
"We again demand the whole truth from our New Jersey bishops," he said.
In addition to serving in Brooklyn and Metuchen, Ferraro also served at parishes in Rhode Island, Missouri, Massachusetts, Queens and Long Island.