Child Victims Act Shines a Spotlight on Brooklyn Catholic Churches

By Anoop Kathrani on April 23, 2019

Although this law is in effect for the entire state of New York, there has been an alarming amount of information coming from Brooklyn, specifically against the Catholic Church.

Now, while this isn’t much of a surprise due to the scandals the Catholic Church has had over the years regarding this subject, it might be surprising to see such a big concentration of complaints coming from Brooklyn. Brooklyn has been known as “the city of churches” so it makes sense that there’s just a greater probability that the good and the bad of the Catholic Church gets amplified in the borough that has the most churches in the city.

The New Yorker published a piece which outlined some of the horrific cases in Brooklyn alone. Here is a list of just some of the examples of clergy abuse cases in Brooklyn:

  1. “Over six years, beginning in 2003, Angelo Serrano, a religious educator at the church, sexually abused four boys. He raped or molested them in the church’s offices and at his apartment, in a brick schoolhouse converted to low-cost housing by Catholic Charities.”
  2. “In Bushwick, Father Augusto Cortez touched a twelve-year-old girl’s breasts at St. John the Baptist Parish School.”
  3. “Father George Zatarga, long the chaplain at Bishop Loughlin, the high school on Lafayette Avenue, later admitted to “inappropriate behavior” with boys on trips to a cabin north of Albany (behavior he recorded lyrically in a “travel log”: skinny-dipping and the like).”
  4. “Father Anthony J. Failla, who served at St. Michael–St. Edward Church, near Fort Greene Park, was accused of sexually abusing a young orphan who slept in the rectory bedroom next to Failla’s quarters.”
  5. “Father Francis X. Nelson, while serving at St. Mary Star of the Sea, in Carroll Gardens, visited the home of a teenage altar girl on the pretext of paying a pastoral call to her sick grandmother, and molested the girl.”
  6. “Father Romano Ferraro was posted to St. Francis Xavier, in Park Slope, after committing acts at other churches that later led to allegations of abuse; during his time at Xavier, Ferraro, on yearly Christmas visits to a friend in Massachusetts, raped the friend’s son (a crime for which he is serving a term of life in prison).”
  7. “The Brooklyn diocese removed Father Christopher Lee Coleman from the ministry for alleged sexual misconduct with a minor, though the diocese waited seven years to disclose its reason. Coleman had once been in residence at Queen of All Saints.”

Another incident in Brooklyn Height’s St. Ann’s School has released its findings of an internal investigation in which they found that there were several instances of former students who say they were sexually abused by staff members and teachers dating all the way back to at least the 1970s.

The Brooklyn Catholic Diocese has even gone as far as publishing a list of over 100 priests who have been credibly accused of decades of sexual abuse.

“We know this list will generate many emotions for victims who have suffered terribly,” the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop of Brooklyn, said in a statement accompanying the disclosure.

“For their suffering, I am truly sorry. I have met with many victims who have told me that more than anything, they want an acknowledgment of what was done to them. This list gives that recognition and I hope it will add another layer of healing for them on their journey toward wholeness.”

What You Need to Know

Although these cases are coming into the light, thanks mostly to the Child Victims Act, there are a few things people need to know before filing a lawsuit.

First, there is only a one-year window which expires on July 24, 2020. This deadline is strictly for cases in which the previous Statute of Limitations had passed. Second, there needs to be some sort of documentation from before the program was announced like a correspondence or a medical record. If you told your therapist and they took notes, that counts. If you suffered a physical injury due to the abuse, a doctor would have documented that visit.

How Douglas & London Can Help Victims

The attorneys at Douglas & London are dedicated to helping those who were victims of these heinous acts at any point in time from all over New York. To learn more about the Child Victims Act or how Douglas & London can help you, visit our page which goes into more detail.

The Child Victims Act gives an opportunity for those who have been violated as children to seek justice but it also comes with a hard deadline. If you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child and now suffer from a psychological or physical injury or ‘condition’ as a result, please contact us on our website or call us at (212) 566-7500. You can speak to us for free, there is no upfront cost and you don’t pay unless we help you secure compensation.

Note: Whether or not you know somebody who was a victim of child abuse in the state of New York, please help spread the word. There is a hard deadline and victims deserve justice. 


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