Sydney – A Catholic brother accused of sex abuse in the US has been convicted in Australia of a string of sex offenses dating back to the 1970s, when he taught at a Catholic school in Melbourne.
Bernard Hartman, who returned to Australia from the US in 2013 to face the charges, was accused of abusing four children in the 1970s and 1980s, when he worked as a teacher at St Paul’s College, a secondary school.
Hartman pleaded guilty in Victoria state County Court to four counts of indecently assaulting two girls between 1973 and 1979, and pleaded not guilty to offenses against two men who were his former students.
He was convicted of one count of indecent assault and two counts of common law assault against one of the men for attacks that occurred between 1981 and 1982, and was found not guilty of another five counts of indecent assault against the same man.
Last week, in a separate trial, he was found not guilty of one charge of indecent assault against the second man.
The court had issued a suppression order barring the media from reporting any details of the trials until they concluded.
Hartman moved back to the US in the 1980s and continued to work as a teacher, including at a Catholic high school in Pittsburgh.
Last year, the head of a St Louis-based religious order apologised after allegations of abuse surfaced against Hartman and seven other Marianist brothers who taught or worked at the Pittsburgh high school.
Those cases came to light after the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh learned about the charges against Hartman in Australia.
When the diocese sent letters alerting graduates of what is now named Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, they received one new allegation against Hartman – who last taught at the school in 1997 – and more than 20 against seven other brothers.
Hartman will be sentenced in Australia on July 8.
Catholic Brother accused of child sex abuse was a sadist: court hears
Photo: Bernard Hartman will stand trial over allegations he abused four children more than 30 years ago. (ABC TV)
American Marianist Brother Bernard Hartman will stand trial over allegations he abused four children while a teacher at St Paul’s College in Melbourne more than 30 years ago.
Hartman is facing 18 charges, including indecent assault, act of gross indecency and assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s
It is alleged Brother Hartman sexually assaulted two girls in their homes after he befriended their families.
He is also alleged to have molested two students at the all boys college.
One of his former students told a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, the biology teacher was a “Jekyll and Hyde type of person.”
The court heard he would regularly molest him and then beat him up.
“He was a bit of a sadist,” the man told the court.
“Mostly every time he abused me sexually, he would finish up physically belting me.
“I felt very alone and angry.”
In a statement tendered in court, one of the women said Hartman molested her between the ages of 5 to 11 in her bedroom after he had been invited around to dinner.
She said she would try to avoid going to bed, or pretend to be asleep to deter him, but could not tell her adoptive parents, who were devout Catholics and in awe of Hartman.
“I felt vulnerable to the world. I was not coping. I felt unprotected,” she said.
The court heard the abuse ended when she was 11, but years later she received a love letter from him.
The woman said when told the court when she complained to the Catholic Organisations “Towards Healing” in her early 20s, she was advised not to tell anyone what happened “as it may stir up problems in other people’s lives.”
Hartman returned to the United States in the 1980s and continued working with the Society of Mary Marianists in Cincinnati.
The court heard the woman approached the society to ensure he did not have access to children.
She later received a letter from Hartman acknowledging her hurt, but the matter went no further.
Hartman has been committed to stand trial in the Victorian County Court on all charges.
19 reporting abuse at Pittsburgh Catholic school
Complaint against Marianist Brother Bernard Hartman turned over to authorities
Pittsburg Action News WTAE
Nineteen former students have now leveled sex abuse allegations against eight Marianist brothers who once worked at a high school in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh as long ago as 1940.
Publicity about previous allegations against five brothers who taught or worked in the school’s cafeteria decades ago have prompted the number of accusers to grow, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman.
The revelations began when the diocese learned in March that Brother Bernard Hartman, 74, faces trial later this year in Australia on charges he molested four students at a Catholic school there in the 1970s and 80s.
The diocese sent a letter to North Catholic High School alumni who attended the school in 1961, 1979 and from 1986 to 1997 – the years Hartman taught at the school.
That letter prompted more alumni to come forward, one with a “credible” allegation against Hartman that has been turned over to Allegheny County prosecutors, and a handful of others with allegations against four other Marianist brothers, three of whom are known to be dead. Those brothers worked at the school at various times between 1951 and 1967. The fourth brother would be 88 if he’s still alive, but church officials can’t be sure if he is because he left the St. Louis-based Marianists decades ago.
Now, publicity about that batch of allegations has prompted other alumni to accuse three more Marianist brothers. In all, 19 former students have made 23 abuse allegations against all eight brothers. Some former students reported abuse by more than one brother, Lengwin said. One accuser is female.
The three brothers named in the new allegations have all since died, too, Lengwin said. They are Jerome Binder, who worked at the school from 1961-66, 1975-76, and 1979-89; James Kline, from 1940-47; and Julius May, from 1960-69.
Marianist officials did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday. But The Rev. Martin Solma, who heads the order, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which first reported the new allegations, he feels “shame.”
“These things are done behind closed doors and secretly. We’re also a victim,” Solma said. “We feel violated by what these individuals have done, so everybody is a victim.”
Lengwin said the Pittsburgh diocese alerted alumni as soon as they learned of the various allegations. He couldn’t say why the Marianists failed to alert the diocese if the religious order knew past abuses.
The Marianists have 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” designed to keep him away from children. For most of that time he did clerical work while living in Dayton, Ohio.