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Priest Wasn't Charged In Baltimore

Jul 10, 2002 | Hartford Courant A priest recently fired from a New Haven church because he had sexually abused boys in a Baltimore parish years ago was never charged with a crime in Baltimore even though he had confessed, a police report shows.

The 1987 report says the Rev. Robert Victor Newman, who was expelled from Sacred Heart Church in New Haven over the weekend, was granted "exceptional clearance" by the Baltimore state's attorney's office despite having admitted to police and prosecutors that he fondled a 14-year-old boy.

As a condition of the "exceptional" arrangement, Newman was to continue treatment in a psychiatric hospital rather than face prosecution, the report said. Then, Maryland law gave prosecutors the option of waiving prosecution if a sex offense suspect agreed to treatment.

According to the report, written five months after the alleged abuse, the arrangement was allowed by Olga Bruning, head of the sex crimes unit at the State's Attorney's Office in Maryland.

"This particular prosecutor in 1987 had authority ... to reach this agreement," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the office. "This type of program is not currently an option for felony sex offenders."

Newman, who graduated from a seminary in Baltimore, was assigned in the early 1980s to Most Precious Blood church in northeast Baltimore. The 15-year-old allegations came to light during a review last month of old abuse cases in connection with the nationwide sex abuse scandal.

Baltimore church officials did not know that Newman, 54, had found new work as a priest until they launched the review, said StephenKearney, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Newman had been at Sacred Heart since 1990. There have been no allegations of abuse against Newman in New Haven, said the Rev. John P. Gatzak, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

According to the 1987 report, Newman had completed 27 days of inpatient psychiatric treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital when he told police that he had fondled the boy.

According to the police report, the abuse was limited to one boy, and it took place in October 1986. Newman told police the incident happened while two 14-year-old boys were staying overnight at his home; he reported that he fondled one of the sleeping boys.

In February 1987, the Archdiocese of Baltimore pulled Newman from the parish after he acknowledged abusing several boys, Kearney said. Newman then went to Hopkins for treatment and the police report was filed in March.

In June of that year, 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.

A spokesman for the Hartford archdiocese said last weekend that church officials apparently were unaware of the allegations in Baltimore. But the now-deceased archbishop of the Hartford archdiocese, John F. Whealon, had been informed in 1990 of Newman's transgressions, according to a church associate of Newman's.

The Sons of Charity, a small, Paris-based religious order, has about 200 members worldwide who specialize in ministering to the working poor.

There are just two members in the United States: Newman and the Rev. James Richardson, his associate pastor at Sacred Heart in New Haven.

Newman was candid about his history and submitted a letter of recommendation from his therapist at the Institute of Living, according to Richardson.

"He voluntarily sought help. It was his choice to seek help," Richardson said.

Whealon, the archbishop who welcomed Newman to Hartford, died in 1991. Whealon decided to give Newman a parish despite the problem in Baltimore, Richardson said.

"That would not happen today, obviously," said Gatzak, the spokesman for the Hartford archdiocese. "Back then, it was certainly a possibility."

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