Cloistered Priest Gets Prison on Sex Charge

By Staci Wilson
The Times-Tribune
October 21, 2011

STAFF PHOTO / STACI WILSON Former cloistered Melkite priest, Philip Ferrara, was sentenced Thursday to serve six to 24 months in prison after pleading no contest to a sex charge.

A Melkite cloistered priest, who pleaded no contest in September to the indecent assault of a 14-year-old boy, offered no apology to the victim at his sentencing Thursday in Susquehanna County Court.

The Rev. Philip Ferrara, 49, was sentenced to six to 24 months in state prison by President Judge Kenneth Seamans. He also must undergo a sexual offender evaluation and receive treatment.

District Attorney Jason Legg said the Rev. Ferrara used his position of authority as a cloistered priest at the Our Lady of Solitude monastery in Apolacon and Middletown townships to get a child to perform sexual acts on several occasions.

"Frankly, I'm appalled at such behavior," Judge Seamans said.

Judge Seamans said that as bad as abuse of a child by a parent or stepparent is, it is "even worse when it is someone who professes to be a man of God."

Omitting the victim, the Rev. Ferrara did offer apologies to the court, the district attorney, the public defender and the county before his sentencing.

He also told the court he was taking responsibility for the incident and that he had experienced "great joy" in the work he had performed for the poor while he was living and working at the monastery.

Our Lady of Solitude is part of the Melkite (Byzantine) Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The cloister is one of six monasteries of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Mass.

The victim and his family stayed at the monastery on several occasions from November 2010 to January when the abuse occurred.

The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Ferrara's attorney, Susquehanna County public defender Linda LaBarbera, told the court that her client's medical condition caused severe pain, which impaired his judgment.

Mr. Legg acknowledged the Rev. Ferrara - who arrived to court in a wheelchair - does suffer from some health issues but told the court the Rev. Ferrara was using a "bogus medical excuse to justify the sexual abuse of a child."

Ms. LaBarbera said the Rev. Ferrara is still a priest but is no longer participating in church rituals. She said he has been living in a supervised facility in Kansas and no longer has any contact with children.

The prison term falls in the aggravated range of the misdemeanor indecent assault charge.

Contact the writer: swilson@


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