Suit Claims Priest Abused Youth in '80s
Cleric Is Defendant in Criminal Case near Boston, Civil Case in New York

By Tim Bryant
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 21, 2004

A former altar boy filed suit in St. Louis on Tuesday claiming he was sexually abused more than 20 years ago by a Catholic priest now awaiting trial on criminal molesting charges in suburban Boston.

The defendant is the Rev. Romano Ferraro, who lived in St. Louis in the early 1980s but was not assigned to any parish duties here.

Ferraro also is among 13 priests named as defendants in a $300 million suit filed in 2002 against the Brooklyn Diocese in New York.

And Ferraro had attained national notoriety in 1986, after reportedly telling an elementary school student that Santa Claus was dead.

The suit in St. Louis Circuit Court seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages from Ferraro, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and its new leader, Archbishop Raymond Burke.

The plaintiff, now in his 30s and married, is identified in the suit only as John Doe. He says he was molested at St. Joan of Arc Church in St. Louis, where he had been an altar boy, from 1981-83, when he was a minor.

Patrick Noaker of St. Paul, Minn., the plaintiff's lawyer, said Ferraro "infiltrated" the boy's family and abused the youth. Ferraro molested the boy at church, in cars, at movies, at a health club, "wherever they were going," Noaker said.

The suit claims the church "concealed the sexual abuse of their minor parishioners by" Ferraro. As a result, the priest was able to "sexually abuse numerous children, including Plaintiff," the suit alleges.

Noaker said he suspected Ferraro molested other children in St. Louis but had no evidence of it.

The archdiocese offered a statement that said church officials had not yet seen the suit and would have no immediate comment.

Ferraro lived "in residence" at St. Joan of Arc Parish from 1981-83 but was not assigned to a parish ministry and had no official duties there, the archdiocese said.

He served as a chaplain at Jewish Hospital, an archdiocesan spokesman said, and had asked to live in the church rectory, 5800 Oleathea Avenue, because it was convenient to his work.

After being ordained in 1960, Ferraro spent most of his career in the New York area. He has been on suspension from the ministry since 1988 based on an accusation of molesting a child, according to published report.

Ferraro, a former Navy chaplain in his late 60s, is believed to be living in Jamaica, N.Y., but efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Authorities in Middlesex County, Mass., allege in charges filed last year that from 1973-80 - shortly before Ferraro arrived in St. Louis - he repeatedly had sex with a boy at a home in Billerica, Mass., a suburb of Boston. Ferraro had grown up in New York with the victim's father, the prosecutor there has said.

Ferraro was among 13 priests in Brooklyn accused in a civil suit of molesting 42 children over four decades. That suit claims that diocesan officials covered up child-sex claims and moved accused priests from parish to parish without informing parents.

Ferraro got perhaps the widest attention in 1986, after he allegedly told a fifth-grader at a Catholic school in New Jersey that Santa Claus was dead. A parent reported that Ferraro, when asked if parents who professed a belief in Santa were liars, answered yes.

Parishioners in Woodbridge, N.J., reported that Romano delivered a sermon in which he said there was no Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and no North Pole workshop for the imaginary Santa either.

His church superiors later offered an apology for the remarks.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Tuesday they planned to distribute leaflets at nine St. Louis parishes where known or suspected sexually abusive priests have worked, asking for any victims or witnesses to come forward.


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