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Ex-city Priest Resigns In Conn.

Jul 7, 2002 | The Baltimore Sun

The pastor of a Roman Catholic church in New Haven, Conn., has resigned after church officials discovered that he had been accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1980s while working as a priest in Baltimore.

The Archdiocese of Hartford announced last night that it confronted the Rev. Robert Newman after receiving word last month from the Archdiocese Of Baltimore that Newman had been expelled from a northeast city church and investigated by state prosecutors in 1987 over the abuse allegations.

A spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese said yesterday that the 15-year-old allegations came to light during a review last month of old abuse cases in the wake of the sex abuse scandal enveloping the Catholic Church in America. The spokesman said that Baltimore church officials did not know that Newman, 54, had found new work as a priest until they launched the review.

"We were unaware that someone else had given him the ability to function," said Stephen Kearney, spokesman for the Baltimore Archdiocese.

A spokesman for the Hartford Archdiocese said the church had not previously known of the allegations in Baltimore, but acted immediately once they learned of them a couple of weeks ago.

Bishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford confronted Newman with the allegations shortly after a meeting June 14 in Dallas where American bishops approved a policy barring priests charged with abuse from the ministry. Newman last worshipped with his New Haven parish more than a week ago. Archdiocese officials said they did not explain his departure to parishioners until a Mass yesterday afternoon.

Newman graduated from a seminary in Baltimore and was assigned in the early 1980s to Most Precious Blood church in Northeast Baltimore.

In 1987, Newman, who was the church's pastor, acknowledged abusing several boys, according to a statement yesterday from the Baltimore Archdiocese.

Although it remained unclear last night whether the state investigation led to criminal charges or a civil settlement, the Archdiocese Of Baltimore fired him. His religious order, the Sons of Charity, sent him to The Institute of Living, a psychiatric hospital in Hartford known for the treatment of pedophiles.

In December 1990, the Archdiocese of Hartford named him pastor of Sacred Heart parish, where his largely Hispanic parishioners admired his efforts to purge drugs and blight from their neighborhoods, said a spokesman for the archdiocese. The spokesman, the Rev. John P. Gatzak, said that Newman faced no new accusations during his tenure in Connecticut.

"I'm sure the community is going to take this very, very hard," Gatzak said.

At a Mass at Sacred Heart yesterday afternoon, the Most Rev. Peter A. Rosazza, an auxiliary bishop of Hartford, told many of Newman's 700 parishioners of his resignation.

Efforts to reach Newman yesterday were unsuccessful, and Gatzak said he believes Newman has left the city.

Kearney said that the Baltimore Archdiocese is continuing to investigate the whereabouts of religious-order priests, such as Newman, who had been accused of abuse while working in Baltimore. Priests who belong to religious orders preside over parishes with the permission of the archdiocese but are not archdiocese employees.

"We know where the archdiocese priests are," Kearney said. "We didn't know necessarily the whereabouts of the religious-order priests."


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