US cleric suspected of child abuse jailed in Australia

2015-07-24 12:11
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Melbourne - An American clergyman suspected of child sexual abuse at a Pennsylvania school was sentenced on Friday to three years in an Australian prison for molesting three children in Melbourne more than 30 years ago.

Brother Bernard Hartman, age 75, a member of the Roman Catholic Marianist religious order, had pleaded guilty in the Victoria state County Court in Melbourne to four counts of indecent assault involving two female students at St. Paul's College in the late 1970s. A jury found him guilty of one count of indecent assault and two of common law assault for abusing a male student in 1981-82.

Judge James Parrish ordered one year of the sentence to be suspended, but Hartman will be supervised for three additional years after his release.

Multiple accusations

Hartman is the subject of a credible allegation of abuse from when he taught at Pittsburgh's North Catholic High School, the city's Roman Catholic diocese said in April last year. That complaint had been turned over to authorities.

He is one eight religious brothers accused of molesting 19 students at the school.

A former student at the school, since renamed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, came forward in March last year as the diocese was preparing a letter sent to North Catholic alumni to alert them to the Australian allegations.

Pittsburgh church officials said they were unaware of Hartman's past until then, even though his St. Louis-based religious order knew of the Australian allegations in 1997 and pulled him out of the Pittsburgh school.

Hartman taught science classes at North Catholic in 1961 and 1970, and then from 1986-97.

The Marianist Province of the US has acknowledged removing Hartman from the Pittsburgh school without publicly explaining why.

The religious order said he has since been given treatment and barred from teaching under a "safety plan," during which he performed mostly clerical work, none of which involved children. For most of that time he lived in Dayton, Ohio.

The letter to North Catholic alumni last year prompted another 18 former students to level sex abuse allegations against another seven brothers who had worked or taught at North Catholic.

All but one of the former brothers are dead.

The head of the religious order that runs 19 high schools in the US, Rev. Martin Solma, has apologised to the former students.

Read more on:    us  |  child abuse

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