Life Term in Billerica Abuse
N.Y. pedophile priest molested local boy, now 37, during home visits over 11 years

By Lisa Redmond
Lowell (MA) Sun
May 21, 2004

Cambridge - Saying suspended priest Romano Ferraro inflicted "unspeakable pain" on a former Billerica boy during the 11 years he sexually abused him, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Raymond Brassard yesterday sentenced him to life in prison.

Ferraro, 70, of New York, an admitted "predator pedophile" who molested possibly dozens of boys during his 30 years as a priest, showed no emotion as he was issued the maximum sentence allowed a term his lawyer likened to "a death sentence" given his age.
But in his impact statement, the victim, now 37, said the abuse has "consumed my life." The victim, who lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children, declined comment after the hearing.

In her statement, his mother noted her son's 10 years in California when he became homeless. Then his dangerous interest in extreme sports, which led to many broken bones and potentially life-threatening stunts.

"It was as if his life had no value," she told the judge.

It wasn't until he got married several years ago that he decided to confront those painful memories and went to the police. The statute of limitations, which precludes bringing charges six or more years after the crime is committed, didn't apply because Ferraro lived outside of Massachusetts for years.

The rapes and molestation came during Ferraro's yearly visits to see the boy's father, a childhood friend, at their Billerica home more than two decades ago.

During the trial this month, the victim testified Ferraro began molesting him in 1970, from age 7 to 13. Ferraro, a close family friend, would molest the boy every time he came for his annual December visit to celebrate the boy's birthday and Christmas. The sexual assaults occurred when Ferraro shared the boy's bed.

The victim's mother said her son dreaded his birthday and Christmas.

"I now understand why," she said.

He remained silent about the sexual assaults until 2001 because he was scared and his highly religious family held Ferraro, a childhood friend of his father's from their Brooklyn, N.Y., days, in high esteem.

The victim's mother said, "We opened our home to him ... and he was abusing our son."

Defense attorney Joseph Oteri said Ferraro has admitted to molesting other boys from New York to St. Louis, but has denied touching the Billerica victim. He said Ferraro was "resigned" to receiving the harshest sentence.

Under the law, Ferraro will be eligible for parole after 15 years. He will be 85. If paroled, Ferraro, who admitted to an addiction to prepubescent boys, will be on probation for 25 years, must register as a sex offender and take all required treatment programs, as well as have no contact with children under 18.

Oteri said any double-digit sentence is like a death sentence for the elderly priest. "He will die in prison," he said. Oteri, who sought a five-year prison sentence, said a life sentence is nothing more than "revenge."

Ferraro was also sentenced May 7 to concurrent four- to five-year prison sentences on three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child.

As Ferraro was led away in handcuffs, the victim hugged prosecutor Katharine Folger and thanked her for her hard work.

During the trial, Ferraro admitted to molesting unnamed prepubescent boys in the parishes he served from New York to St. Louis, and as a Navy chaplain, during his 30 years as a Roman Catholic priest.

Ferraro became a priest in 1960 but has been suspended from active service in New York since the late 1980s, when a separate allegation of sexual abuse arose. Before his New York assignments, Ferraro was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after similar allegations.

He currently faces two civil molestation lawsuits in St. Louis. Folger said last year the Archdiocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., paid the victim in another civil lawsuit a $330,000 settlement.

Ferraro stopped molesting children 15 years ago when he underwent treatment for pedophilia and began a sex-abuse treatment program, he said. Ferraro testified he recognizes he has an illness, potentially triggered by being physically and sexually abused as a child, and that he's made peace with God.

But one New Jersey mother whose two sons were allegedly molested by Ferraro said yesterday her sons have not found peace. One son tried to commit suicide and the other can't have a successful relationship, she said. "They are locked in a prison built by Romano Ferraro," she said.

She, like other parents, live with the guilt.

"My sons were robbed of their childhood and every child's basic right to be safe and secure," she said, choking back tears.

What happened to these children was an "abomination," she said, and she has to live with the reality that "I didn't protect my children."

Lisa Redmond's e-mail address is .


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