Priest gets prison time on sex charge

PHILIP FERRARA

BY STACI WILSON

The 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 for his actions at his sentencing Thursday inSusquehannaCountycourt.

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

District Attorney Jason Legg saidFerrarahad used his position of authority as a cloistered priest at the Our Lady of Solitude monastery, in Apolacon andMiddletowntownships, to get a child to perform sexual acts on several occasions.

Judge Seamans said, “Frankly, I’m appalled at such behavior.”

Seamans said that as bad as abuse of a child by a parent or step-parent is, it is “even worse when it is someone who professes to be a man of God.”

The judge added he found the priest’s “planning and scheming to make all this happen” to be “detestable.”

Although omitting the victim,Ferraradid offer apologies to the court, the district attorney, the public defender and the county prior to 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 Melkite Catholic Church does not fall under the purview of the Roman Catholic Church, according to a statement issued in March by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton afterFerrara’s arrest.

In April, Archbishop Cyril Bustros of the Melkite Eparchy inNewton,Mass., released a statement that upon learning of the credible occurrence of abuse of a minor, “Rev. Ferrara was immediately suspended and relieved of all priestly duties and placed in a treatment center for evaluation.”

The victim and his family stayed at the monastery on several occasions November 2010-January 2011 when the abuse occurred.

According to statements made to police about the incident, he told the victim his sperm duct was blocked and was causing him intense back pain and it helped when his penis was massaged.

Ferrara’s attorney, Susquehanna County Public Defender Linda LaBarbera told the court that her client’s medical condition caused severe pain which impaired his judgement.

Legg acknowledgedFerrara– who arrived to court in a wheelchair – does suffer from some health issues but told the courtFerrarawas using a “bogus medical excuse to justify the sexual abuse of a child.”

LaBarbera saidFerrarawas still a priest but he was no longer actively participating in church rituals; was currently living in a supervised facility inKansas; and has no contact with children.

LaBarbera also argued thatFerrara’s medical condition would be adversely affected in prison and advocated he receive a probationary sentence.

The six to 24-month prison term falls in the aggravated range of the misdemeanor indecent assault charge.

The judge also denied a continuance of bail forFerraraciting the nature of the offense and that he is no longer aPennsylvaniaresident.