Man Sues Military Archdiocese, Says He Was Abused in Key West

By Becky Iannotta
January 10, 2006

Key West — A former Key West resident has filed a $10 million civil lawsuit, alleging a Catholic priest sexually abused him in the late 1960s while serving as a Navy chaplain at Naval Air Station Key West.

Attorney Jeffrey Herman, representing a man identified as "John," said Father Romano Ferraro invited boys who attended Mass at the Navy base chapel to come to his house for pizza parties and movie nights. Ferraro, who was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison in Massachusetts for raping a boy, would walk around naked in his Key West home and then request that the boys sit on his lap, Herman said.

"John" was about 11 years old at the time of the alleged abuse and did not file reports to law enforcement officials, Herman said.

"We do believe there are many other victims in Key West, because he has memories of being put in a bath tub with four other boys," Herman said. "[Ferraro] would host these nights for the boys ... then he would abuse the kids."

The lawsuit accuses the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese for the Military Services of assigning known pedophiles to serve as military chaplains. It's seeking damages of $10 million from the two divisions of the Catholic Church. Ferraro is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

"This was a bad guy who was bad from the very beginning," Herman said. "We believe he was shuffled out of Brooklyn where there were complaints and down to Key West to a new batch of kids."

Ferraro was ordained a priest in 1960 and worked in Brooklyn before serving as a Navy chaplain from 1968 to 1971, said Frank DeRosa, spokesman for the Brooklyn Diocese. DeRosa said he had not received notice of the lawsuit by Thursday afternoon.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services also said it had no knowledge of the lawsuit, which was announced in a press release issued by Herman.

"The Archdiocese for the Military Services, which was established in 1985, categorically rejects the statement in Mr. Herman's press release that alleges the Church 'had a long-standing practice of assigning known pedophiles to serve as military chaplains,'" Tom Connelly, spokesman for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, said in a written statement. "This statement is wrong and does a great disservice to the many dedicated and heroic priest chaplains who have served this country in war and peace, often placing themselves in harm's way to provide sacramental and spiritual care to Catholics in our Armed Forces."

Ferraro was arrested in New York in 2002 after a man reported he had been abused as a child by the priest in a Billerica, Mass., home. Ferraro was not assigned to a parish in Massachusetts, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Middlesex District Attorney's office.

In May 2004, a Massachusetts jury found Ferraro, then 70 years old, guilty of raping a child, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years old. The abuse occurred between 1970 and 1980 and involved a boy while he was between the ages of four and 13, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's office.

The judge sentenced Ferraro on May 20, 2004, to life in prison for the rape charge.


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