Lawyers urge clergy abuse victims to come forward before deadline

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KINGS PARK -

Lawyers are asking anybody who may have been sexually abused by a Long Island priest to come forward.

Former Catholic priest Romano Ferraro is now a convicted serial pedophile.

"It is hard to hear this and know what he has done," says Marianne Helldorfer, a parishioner of St Joseph's Church in Kings Park, where Ferraro once served.

Attorneys who represent Ferraro's victims want to get the word out to others who may have been abused. That's because a monetary compensation program offered by the Brooklyn Diocese, where Ferraro was ordained, has a Dec. 21 deadline.

"It is vital that survivors here on Long Island, if they were abused by Father Ferraro...comply with the Diocese of Brooklyn guidelines," says attorney Michael Reck.

Ferraro served at St. Joseph's between 1975 and 1977. Two alleged victims have come forward, but attorneys believe there may be more.

"We believe there are many children that were abused and are suffering in silence," Reck says. "They are not alone and they do have rights."

Those fighting for the victims say that monetary compensation falls short. They say they want the church to admit there was a decadeslong cover-up to protect pedophile priests and want the names of the accused priests to be publicly released.

"The bottom line is secrets are kept," says Patrick Wall, a sex abuse victims advocate. "Secrets are kept in the archives of every diocese across the country."

Church officials released a statement saying in part, "We recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse."

Both the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Brooklyn are offering the compensation program.

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