STATEN ISLAND (NY)
Staten Island Advance
December 7, 2020
By Maura Grunlund
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A religious brother sexually abused two men more than 40 years ago when they were students at Monsignor Farrell High School in Oakwood, lawsuits allege.
Brother Salvatore Anthony Ferro is named in two separate litigations filed recently under the New York State Child Victims Act against the Archdiocese of New York, Monsignor Farrell High School, and various entities of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
One lawsuit, filed by Thomas McGloin of Emerson Hill, alleges he was “sexually abused by Brother Ferro,” including the brother “instructing Thomas to take off his pants and Brother Ferro fondling Thomas’s genitals.”
McGloin told the Advance/SILive.com that he was abused by Brother Ferro, who was his English teacher and a vice principal, in 1978 inside the Christian Brother’s office, located in a heavily-trafficked area near the principal’s office.
“I walked into a trap because I was sick and wanted to go home and somehow he [Brother Ferro] presented himself as someone who had to do a medical exam,” McGloin said as he recalled what led up to the alleged assault, which he says occurred when he was a 14-year-old freshman.
“I complained of a stomach ache and he spoke of a line of pain, those were his specific words, a line of pain which he traced from the stomach to between my legs, and that I needed to take my pants down and my underwear so that he could investigate that,” he said.
McGloin was “highly, highly distraught” after the alleged incident.
“I remember running out of that office to the train station,” he said. “I lived in Bay Terrace and I’d take the train one stop from Oakwood, and being alone and just having that horrific feeling that you have when something terrible has happened, and in this case you’re just not understanding it.”
A separate lawsuit filed by a Staten Island man who wished only to be identified as Michael levels similar allegations against Brother Ferro at Farrell.
“From approximately 1979 through approximately 1980, Brother Ferro exploited the trust and authority vested in him by the defendants by grooming Michael to gain his trust and to obtain control over him as part of Brother Ferro’s plan to sexually molest and abuse Michael and other children,” the lawsuit alleges.
Michael was sexually abused when he was about 13 to 14 years old in the health office at Farrell, where he went for help with “stomach problems,” according to the lawsuit.
“The sexual abuse occurred numerous times and included, but was not limited to, Brother Ferro touching Michael’s genitals,” according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Michael Pfau said his law firm, Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, represents about 75 victims of abuse in the Archdiocese of New York. His clients include McGloin, Michael and several others who alleged abuse by Brother Ferro at Farrell and other settings.
“This a serial abuser,” Pfau said.
Pfau said that Brother Ferro had a modus operandi where he groomed and then took advantage of his youthful victims.
“We have other clients who were abused in the same way,” the attorney said. “He would lure a kid in, talk about things that may be of interest to the kid and then come up with this phony medical excuse as a way to get an already vulnerable kid further compromised.”
KEEPING THE SECRET
As with many child victims of sex abuse, McGloin kept the secret.
“I could just remember this surge of shame after it happened and then kind of burying it, not talking to anybody about it,” he said about the feelings that never left him.
The assault has had a devastating impact on McGloin’s life, the lawsuit alleges:
“By reason of the wrongful acts of each of the defendants as detailed herein, Thomas sustained physical and psychological injuries, including but not limited to, severe emotional and psychological distress, humiliation, fright, dissociation, anger, depression, anxiety, family turmoil and loss of faith, a severe shock to his nervous system, physical pain and mental anguish, and emotional and psychological damage, and, upon information and belief, some or all of these injuries are of a permanent and lasting nature, and Thomas has and/or will become obligated to expend sums of money for treatment.”
Inspired by the Me Too Movement, McGloin decided to sue and go public with his story.
“I saw the benefit to other victims from the people courageous enough to speak out,” McGloin said. “I don’t feel vengeful in any way, but it would satisfy me if the archdiocese knew that people were hurt, including me, and that they were accountable for it, and then separately that other survivors would know they’re not alone.”
McGloin also wants to shatter myths about survivors. He was a good student, popular and played ice hockey — so since the abuse happened to him, any child could unwittingly become a victim of a predator.
McGloin claims the archdiocese should be held responsible to “the degree they knew or should have known that this happened and didn’t take action to protect me and others.”
Priestly abusers typically chose discreet scenarios such as victimizing a lone altar boy at an early-morning Mass or isolating and attacking a child at a religious retreat, the attorney said.
“What’s interesting is having represented hundreds of Catholic abuse victims, it is pretty bold to be using kids in what Tommy has described as a high-traffic area in the high school,” Pfau said.
“This isn’t an example of lonely, disturbed priest or brother who acted on impulse,” Pfau said of Brother Ferro. “This is a guy who had a plan that he knew worked and executed his plan. When there were complaints and nothing was done, it emboldened this abuser to continuing doing what he did, and that’s really at the root of the whole Catholic Church scandal.”
The Advance/SILive.com previously reported other lawsuits against Brother Ferro. Jim Burke, who lives in Manhattan, and John Hynes of Staten Island, maintain that they were abused at Farrell around 40 years ago as students by Brother Ferro.
“The archdiocese takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously, and responds with compassion and respect,” said Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the archdiocese. “However, because these are active cases, we cannot comment on the specifics of any of the lawsuits being brought under the CVA.”
An attorney for the Christian Brothers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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