Australian abuse suspect accused in Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – A clergyman awaiting trial on charges he molested four students some 30 years ago at a school in Australia is the subject of a credible allegation of abuse from when he taught at Pittsburgh’s North Catholic High School, according to a spokesman for the city’s Roman Catholic diocese.


That complaint against Marianist Brother Bernard Hartman, 74, was turned over to authorities, according to the Rev. Ronald Lengwin.


A former student at the school, since renamed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, came forward as the diocese was preparing a letter sent to North Catholic alumni last month about the Australian charges.


Hartman is accused of molesting two boys and two girls at St. Paul’s College in Melbourne, in the 1970s and early 1980s. One of Hartman’s Australian accusers went public three years ago and authorities there charged him last year.


An Australian court since determined there’s enough probable cause for Hartman to stand trial there next year.


What has alarmed Pittsburgh church officials is that they didn’t learn of Hartman’s past until last month, even though his St. Louis-based religious order knew of the Australian allegations in 1997, which is why the Marianists pulled Hartman out of North Catholic.


Hartman taught science classes at the school briefly in 1961 and 1970, and then from 1986-97.


The Marianist Province of the United States acknowledged removing Hartman from the Pittsburgh school without publicly explaining why. The religious order said Hartman 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.


In the letter to North Catholic alumni, the diocese said it learned only last month that the Marianists removed Hartman because of the Australian allegations.


“The Diocese of Pittsburgh, its Schools Office, had no prior knowledge of that allegation or any other allegation nor of the Marianists’ reason for removing brother Hartman,” said the letter signed by North Catholic’s president and the diocese’s superintendent of schools.


“The main purpose in writing to you is to express concern for any possible victims of sexual misconduct,” the letter said. “If Brother Hartman sexually abused anyone while he was in Pittsburgh, we want to know about it.”


Lengwin wouldn’t be specific about the allegation beyond saying it “is credible and we have turned it over to the appropriate legal authorities.”


The Allegheny County district attorney’s office, which handled past abuse allegations from the diocese, did not immediately comment on the case.


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