Romano Ferraro – The Predator Padre and the Priest-shuffling Scandal

Rev. Romano J. Ferraro in the vestibule of St. Joseph’s church in Kings Park in the Rockville Centre diocese on December 25, 1975 or 1974. His is posing with several children and a teenager dressed as Santa Claus.

They should have known the Reverend Romano Ferraro had a callous disregard for the feelings of children when he delivered a stunning sermon in 1986 that caused a national uproar.

During his sermon for religious instruction students in the first-through-sixth grades at St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church in Colonia in Middlesex County, Ferraro said St. Nicholas did not exist and there never was a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or a North Pole.

The story made headlines and newscasts coast to coast. In a statement the church, the pastor of St. John Vianney, Rev. Francis J. Sergel, wrote, “It is unfortunate that Father Ferraro in his zeal to emphasize the spiritual dimensions of our celebrations may have appeared to diminish the importance which many, especially children, attach to some of the cultural and secular aspects of this season.”

What kind of monster would say such things to children? Two weeks after the Dec. 6th sermon, Ferraro took a leave of absence from the church for “personal and parochial” reasons. Unfortunately for Ferraro’s many victims, that was the least of his transgressions.

Ferraro’s lengthy, lurid career as one of the most prolific pedophile priests in American history began when was ordained by the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1960.

It is not unusual for priests to be shuttled around from parish to parish. In fact, it is a fairly common practice. Like the military, the Catholic Church will reallocate its resources to maintain staffing levels. When one priest retires or requests a transfer, another is relocated. Reassignments also help ensure the Gospel message doesn’t grow stale.

Then, there is “Priest Shuffling,” a shameful practice where Roman Catholic Church administrators reassign priests suspected or accused of child abuse, shuttling them off to another parish, hoping the problem goes away.

Lacking good conscience, church officials would not disclose the pedophile’s past crimes to the new parish. They should have reported these predators, and not unleash them on a new flock of victims.

And certainly not 32 times. That could mean Ferraro was the most shuffled priest in American history, but as the Catholic Church never kept records of the evil practice, we’ll never know.

We do know that Ferraro’s sick trail cut across six states (Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). In addition to the six dioceses – Brooklyn, New York, Rockville Centre, Metuchen (NJ) and St. Louis (MO) – Ferraro’s prolific pedophilic criminal career including five stints as hospital chaplain. He was even a criminal abroad for time, let loose for a period of time in the Philippines.

If you were a young Catholic school boy or played in a Catholic Youth League in Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s, as I did, it’s frightening to think this predator likely crossed your path. In that period, Ferraro was assigned to multiple locations in Brooklyn, including Holy Family (Flatlands Ave & Rockaway Parkway), Madonna Residence for the Elderly, Regis Pacis Votive Shrine (65th & 12th Ave.), St. Francis Xavier (Carroll St. & 6th Ave.), St. Joseph’s (185 Suydam), St. Lucy’s (Kent & Park Ave.), St. Rosalia’s (63rd & 14th Ave.), as well as stops at St. Rose of Lima (in Far Rockaway), Parson’s Manor (in Jamaica), St. Rita’s (on Staten Island), St. Aloysius (in Queens), St. Francis Xavier (in the Bronx), and Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Queens).

They just couldn’t get rid of this guy.

During his 42-year-career, he spent approximately 13 years on leave, including a 10-year mandatory sideline starting in 1973. Who knows what he was doing during those periods, but he did come back, and by 1983 he again had full access to parishioners, of all ages.

A few years later Ferraro made his notorious “Santa is Dead” sermon, and not long after that, the accusations started to fly.

By 1988, the Catholic Church was fielding multiple charges regarding Ferraro.

The Church made a six-figure settlement to make one case go away, even as others cropped up. All in all, Ferraro admitted in open court to sexually abusing “perhaps dozens” of young boys. Catholic Church’s shuffling of Ferraro 32 times corroborates that assertion, at the high end of the estimate.

Arrested in 2002 and convicted in 2004 in Massachusetts for raping a boy there, Ferraro is serving life.

There’s a special circle of hell reserved for priests who prey on young children.

God willing, someday Ferraro will be shuffled there one day.

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