Abuse by Priest Led to Suicide, Suit Says

By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 13, 2006

A widow from the St. Louis area filed a wrongful death suit Monday against a jailed priest and the Roman Catholic Church, claiming the priest's sexual abuse of her husband caused him to commit suicide last year.

The husband, identified in court papers as "John Doe GS," filed his own suit just two months before his death. The suit says the Rev. Romano Ferraro abused him at St. Joan of Arc parish in south St. Louis multiple times in the early 1980s, when the plaintiff was 10 to 11. The suit also says the St. Louis Archdiocese knew or should have known that Ferraro was a danger.

John Doe GS, a computer industry worker, suppressed his memory of the abuse until the latter half of 2004, the lawsuits say. He struggled with episodic depression throughout his life. When he finally realized the root cause, he began to suffer more severe bouts of depression and attempted suicide on multiple occasions, even though he aggressively sought therapy, according to the lawsuits and a statement released Monday by the widow. He died July 14 of a gunshot wound.

"Words are inadequate to describe the torment that my husband experienced before ending his life," the widow said in her statement, which was released at a press conference by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "When Romano Ferraro abused my husband as a child, he forever broke something inside of the little boy."

The woman, also filing anonymously as Mary Doe GS, amended the suit on behalf of herself and her husband's estate and changed the wording to reflect his death.

The survivors group says the suit is the second in the St. Louis area to allege that sexual abuse at the hands of a priest led to a suicide.

The earlier suit was filed by the father of Christopher Klump, a former Marine who died in 2003 of a cocaine overdose shortly after learning it was too late to file criminal charges against the priest.

The group says one other man also committed suicide as a result of being abused.

Ferraro is serving a life sentence in Massachusetts for sexually assaulting a young boy there. He lived at St. Joan of Arc in the early 1980s while a chaplain at Jewish Hospital.

The archdiocese released a statement Monday that said church officials were not aware of the death of John Doe GS and said that if they knew he needed help, they would have done what they could have to help him immediately. Spokesman Tony Huenneke said the church had settled two other suits alleging abuse by Ferraro for a total of $65,700.


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