Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario

Summary of Case: Joseph Ferrario was ordained a priest of the Sulpician order in in 1951 and started his career in Mountain View, CA.
In 1957 he was sent to Hawaii where he taught at a minor seminary and became a parish pastor. He held numerous leadership positions in the diocese, including Vocations Director, CYO Director, and Director of Scouting. Ferrario was elevated to Auxiliary Bishop of Honolulu in 1978, and to Bishop in 1982. He was accused in 1985 of having sexually abused a 15-year-old boy beginning in 1975 and continuing for years, including while he was bishop. Ferrario denied the allegations. The boy is said to have initially gone to Ferrario for counseling. His accuser claimed Ferrario paid him for sexual encounters. Ferrario is also said to have solicited sex from young seminarians. An internal church investigation deemed the accusations "groundless". Ferrario retired in 1993 and died in 2003. Between June 2012 and May 2014 three more men filed suit, with accusations that Ferrario sexually abused them when they were boys. Two of the men said Ferrario abused them after they disclosed to him abuse by another priest.

Ordained: 1951

Retired: 1993
Died: Dec. 12, 2003


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


San Francisco archbishop was John Joseph Mitty (1935-1961)

1955 St. Joseph's College Mountain View CA Ferrario ordained as a priest of the Sulpician order. St. Joseph's College was a Sulpician seminary. "Rev. Joseph A. Ferrario, s.s.".


Baltimore archbishop was Francis Patrick Keough (1947-1961)

1956 St. Mary's Seminary and University Theological Dept. Roland Park MD   This was a house of studies, or novitiate for Sulpicians, known as a "Sulpician solitude".
1956 1957 St. Joseph's College Mountain View CA    


Honolulu bishop was James Joseph Sweeney (1941-1968)

1966 St. Stephen's Minor Seminary


Ferrario was accused in an April 2014 lawsuit of sexually abusing a 14-year-old St. Stephen's student in the late 1960s. His accuser said he was first sexually abused by another priest and teacher at the school, Fr. William Queenan, and that he reported the abuse to Ferrario. It was then that Ferrario is said to have begun abusing the boy, too.

HI 5/6, 5/8, 5/9 This was a diocesan minor seminary with 33-70 students.
1966 1967 Our Lady of the Mount Honolulu HI 2/2  
1967 1968 Damien Memorial

Photo is from Damien Memorial's 1968 yearbook.



HI Ferrario was a teacher at Damien Memorial. The Directories do not reflect this, but his picture is in several Damien Memorial yearbooks. He may have been there for four years. This was a private Catholic school for boys, grades 6-12.
1966 1974 Diocesan Vocations Director Honolulu HI    


Sweeney was succeeded by John Joseph Scanlan (1968-1981)

1969 Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace Honolulu HI 5/5 In residence.

The Cathedral had a school with 272-345 students.

The suffix "s.s." is dropped from Ferrario's name for the first time in the 1969 Directory, and thereafter.


John Joseph Scanlan replaced Sweeney (1968-1981), followed by Joseph Anthony Ferrario (1982-1993)

1982 Diocesan Consultors Honolulu HI    
1967 1974 Catholic Scouting Honolulu HI Responsible for Oahu and Kauia 1967-1969; Diocesan Director of Scouting 1969-1974, while also specifically overseeing Oahu scouting.  
1969 1973 St. Stephen's Minor Seminary Kaneohe HI In residence. The minor seminary closed in 1976.


Catholic Youth Organization Honolulu HI Executive Director 1969-1974; Advisor 1979-1982  
Diocesan Liturgical Commission Honolulu HI Chair  
1969 1978 Senate of Priests Honolulu HI Vice-Pres. 1969-1970; Pres. 1970-1972; member 1969-1975, 1976-1978.  
1970 1974 Search for Christian Maturity

Honolulu HI Director  
1973 1976 Holy Trinity Honolulu HI 1/4, 1/3 Holy Trinity had a school with 300 students.
1975 1978 St. Anthony's


Ferrario was accused in 1985 of sexually abusing a boy beginning when the boy was 15 years old, in 1975. The boy was one of 15 children whose mother was a St. Anthony's rectory housekeeper. She was in the process of divorcing her abusive husband. The boy is said to have gone to Ferrario for counseling when Ferrario began to sexually exploit him. Ferrario is said to have given the boy money after each encounter, and that this went on for years.

In June 2012 Ferrario was accused of sexually abusing a boy while at St. Joseph's. His accuser said another priest of the parish, Fr. Joseph Henry, had sexually abused him several years earlier, when the boy was an 8 or 9-year-old fourth grader. He said he told Ferrario about the abuse, and that Ferrario told him to keep it a secret before sexually abusing him. This accuser was the second to implicate both Ferrario and Henry.

In May 2013 another man filed suit, accusing Ferrario of sexually molesting him at St. Anthony's when he was a boy .

HI 1/3, 1/4

St. Anthony's had a school with 769-750 students.

Ferrario's accuser claimed that Ferrario's predecessor at St. Anthony's, Rev. Joseph Henry, sexually abused him beginning when he was 5 years old, and continued to do so for eight years. Henry died in 1972. Ferrario's accuser alleged, too, that at age 19 he went to Rev.Tony Bolger for counseling and that Bolger sexually exploited him as well. Ferrario denied the allegations .

Ferrario's second accuser was able to come forward with a claim in 2012 under a new law that allowed a two-year window for claims of child sexual abuse for which the statute of limitations had expired.


1975 1977 Eucharistic Congress Honolulu HI Director  
1978 1982 Diocese of Honolulu Honolulu HI Auxiliary Bishop Ferrario was appointed Titular Bishop of Cuse and Auxiliary Nov. 8, 1977. He was ordained Bishop Jan. 13, 1978.
Diocese of Honolulu Honolulu HI Vicar General  
1977 1993 Diocesan Administrative Council Honolulu HI  

The diocese was first informed in 1985 about accusations against Ferrario of sexual abuse of the 15 year-old boy in 1975 and beyond.

In 1985 the accuser's mother wrote to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, D.C, Archbishop Laghi, detailing her son's abuse. Laghi, who had just been made Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, sent the letter to Ferrario. In Nov. 1985 Ferrario is said to have paid his accuser $400.00 in exchange for recanting his accusations. The accuser restated the original claims in a Feb. 1986 to Laghi.

Bishop Daniel Walsh of San Francisco, a good friend of Ferrario, was sent to interview the accuser and his mother. He swore Ferrario's accuser and his mother to secrecy. The accusations were deemed "groundless" by the church officials.

In 1989 the accusations were made public, and Ferrario's accuser filed suit in 1991. The lawsuit was dismissed due to the statute of limitations.

1978 1994 St. Stephen's Seminary



HI In residence.

The minor seminary closed in 1976.

Ferrario was said to have solicited sex from St. Stephen's seminarians. "Problem priests" were said to have been sent from the mainland to Hawaii.

1977 1982 Building Commission Oahu HI    
1979 1983 Call to Action Honolulu HI Chair  
1977 1982 Vigilance Council Honolulu HI    
1980 1982 Samoan Catholic Clubs Honolulu HI    
1982 1993 Diocese of Honolulu Honolulu HI Bishop Ferrario was elevated to Bishop of Honolulu June 25, 1982.
1982 1993 Catholic Charities Honolulu HI President 1982-1988; President Board of Directors and Board of Trustees1988-2003.  
1982 1993 Hawaii Catholic Herald Honolulu HI Publisher  
1983 1993 Diocesan Finance Committee        
1987 1993 Knights of Columbus Honolulu HI State Chaplain  


Francis Xavier DiLorenzo succeeded Ferrario as Honolulu bishop (1994-2004)

2003 Retired      

Ferrario retired Oct. 12, 1993. The man who sued him in 1991 for childhood sexual abuse had by then died of AIDs.

Ferrario died Dec. 12, 2003


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1952-2004)

Youth Accuses Hawaii Bishop of Pedophilia, By Larry Witham, Washington Times, November 6, 1989
Hawaii Bishop Denies Sexual Abuse Charges, By Larry Witham, Washington Times, August 14, 1991
Sins of the Fathers, By Richard N. Ostling with Barbara Dolan, Time Magazine, August 19, 1991
Lead Us Not into Tempation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children, by Jason Berry, Doubleday,1992, pp. 308-22 and 366.
Predators of the Cloth; Betrayal of Trust, Church Often Works to Cloak Priests Who Molest Children, By Evan Moore, Houston Chronicle, September 27, 1992
Retired Bishop Helped Poor, Gays, By Mary Vorsino, Honolulu Star - Bulletin (Hawaii), December 14, 2003
Former Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario, By Blakeman Karen, Honolulu Advertiser, December 14, 2003
National abuse study includes 5 isle priests, By Mary Adamski , Honolulu Star Bulletin, February 27, 2004
Head Count of Ousted Bishops, Freedom From Religion Foundation, October 7, 2004
Unholy Alliances, By Leslie Bennetts, Vanity Fair, December 1991
'Sodomy' Book Author Exposes Santa Rosa Bishop, Priest, By Matt C. Abbott, Renew America [California], June 27, 2006 list of U.S. Bishops Accused of Abuse, April 14, 2008
Another Clergy Sexual Abuse Allegation Lawsuit Filed under Recently Enacted Hawaii Law, The Republic, June 13, 2012
Breaking: Former Hawaii Bishop Accused of Molesting Boy, By Joelle Casteix, Worthy Adversary, June 13, 2012
Victim Sexually Abused by a Priest Speaks Publicly, By Gina Mangieri, KHON, August 23, 2012
2 Kailua Priests Accused of Rape, By Tim Sakahara, Hawaii News Now, August 24, 2012
A Hero Is Born Overnight, By Joelle Casteix, Worthy Adversary, August 25, 2012
Second Retired Honolulu Priest Sued for Abuse: Bishop Does … Nothing, By Joelle Casteix, Worthy Adversary, May 10, 2013
Do You Stand with Abusers, or with Victims?, By Joelle Casteix, Worthy Adversary, October 22, 2013
Media Advisory: Abuse Survivor of Former Bp. Joseph Ferrario to Speak Publicly Tuesday, Jeff Anderson & Associates, December 10, 2013
Complaint in John Roe No 27 v Congregation of Christian Brothers et al, Cause No 14-1-0855-4, First Circuit Court, Hawaii April 4, 2014
Sex Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Diocese, Former Bishop New Hawaii Predator Priest Exposed, Jeff Anderson & Associates, April 7, 2014
Catholic Church in Hawaii Faces Lawsuit, KHVH, April 9, 2014

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Ferrario's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on Sept. 2, 2014.