Parishioners React with Shock at Abuse Allegations against Pastor

Associated Press State & Local Wire
July 6, 2002

A New Haven priest who worked to rid a neighborhood of drugs and blight resigned from Sacred Heart Church on Saturday after officials of the Archdiocese of Hartford said he sexually abused children in Baltimore in the late 1980s.

The Rev. Robert Newman, 55, resigned rather than fight charges discovered by the Archdiocese of Baltimore after reviewing the priest's work files.

Newman was pastor of Sacred Heart Parish since 1990.

He served as a priest in Baltimore from 1981 to 1987. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore said Saturday that abuse allegations against Newman arose in the late 1980s.

A criminal investigation was launched and Newman was relieved of his duties. He was sent to a psychiatric center in Hartford and later joined the Archdiocese of Hartford, the New Haven Register reports in Sunday's editions.

"Father Newman himself realized he had a problem and he made his concerns known to church officials years ago in Baltimore," Father John P. Gatzak, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, was quoted as saying in the New Haven Register.

Gatzak said there is "no indication or allegations of incidents that took place" during Newman's tenure in New Haven.

The Connecticut state police and state Department of Children and Families have been informed of the allegations against Newman, Gatzak said.

Parishioners and people who know Newman said they were shocked, while some said they want Newman to remain as pastor.

"The community is suffering," said the Rev. Jim Richardson, Sacred Heart's parochial vicar.

"I don't think that's fair at all because of something that happened 12 years ago," said Helen Martin, who worked with Newman in several neighborhood improvement projects. "He's a lovely person, he fought for the neighborhood with us, and he was trying to make a difference in the neighborhood."

Richardson said the Sacred Heart parish, which serves between 500 and 700 parishioners, was informed of the allegations against Newman at Saturday's 4 p.m. mass.

The Most Reverend Peter Rosazza will again inform parishioners during Sunday services.


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