Queens Priest Arraigned on Sex Abuse Rap

By Scott Shifrel and Austin Fenner Daily
New York Daily News
April 3, 2002

A Queens priest - accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a young boy in Massachusetts more than 20 years ago - waived his right to fight extradition yesterday.

The Rev. Romano Ferraro, 67, was arraigned in a Kew Gardens courtroom after being arrested on an out-of-state fugitive warrant.

Wearing a black windbreaker, Ferraro listened dejectedly as Queens Judge Denis Butler ordered him held in protective custody until Massachusetts authorities pick him up Friday.

A Middlesex County, Mass., grand jury has indicted Ferraro on charges of raping and sexually assaulting a boy at a suburban Boston home in the 1970s - the first time when the boy was 7, the last time when he was 13.

Ferraro was living at Parsons Manor, a residence for priests on 153rd St. in Jamaica, when he was picked up on Monday night by cops from the Queens special victims unit.

The Staten Island-born Ferraro, ordained as a priest by the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1960, has spent 13 of the last 42 years on personal leave, church officials said.

He took a 10-year leave beginning in 1973, according to diocese spokesman Frank De Rosa.

Ferraro returned as a working priest in 1983. During a Mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Colonia, N.J., in 1986, he caused a national furor by declaring in his sermon that Santa Claus was dead. Soon after, he was granted a three-year leave.

1988 abuse charge

In 1988, while he was on leave, a Brooklyn family made a similar sexual abuse charge.

"A family came to the diocese to make an allegation," De Rosa said. "The family and the diocese met and worked together, and it was resolved to the satisfaction of the family."

De Rosa said Bishop Francis Mugavero, who was the head of the Diocese of Brooklyn at the time, never reported the allegation to authorities.

He said the church sent Ferraro for psychological evaluations and counseling. He was never again restored to active duty, church officials say.

Lawyer Joseph Ostrowsky, who represented Ferraro at yesterday's hearing, described him as "sad and . . . a little bit upset" over the charges.

"This was so long ago," Ostrowsky said of the allegations. "Don't you think that someone could have distorted or exaggerated something? It's happened before."

The accuser first went to authorities last fall. Prosecutors were able to file charges because the statute of limitations is frozen in Massachusetts if a defendant leaves the jurisdiction.


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