Australian Sex Offending Cleric Finds a New Home in the United States

SNAP Wisconsin
December 6, 2011

The Age, a news source in Australia, reported this past week on the case of Brother Bernard Hartman. Hartman is a member of the Marianist religious order. The Marianists state that they look to the Blessed Mother as their model of discipleship. Brother Hartman admitted to church officials in Australia that he sexually assaulted a child. The victim of his assault, Mairead Ashcroft, has been publicly speaking out about her efforts to hold Hartman accountable.

Ashcroft states that in 1999 she went to church officials to report that Hartman had sexually assaulted her when she was eight years old. The church officials who received this report failed to contact the police. Ashcroft stated “The church never wanted the police to know about it or suggested that the complaint be taken to the police”. “I assumed they had because it involved a child sexual assault but they never did”.

Brother Hartman admitted to the assault in a letter that he wrote to Ashcroft. In the letter he wrote that he regretted “the hurt I caused you…I know I have been the cause of this hurt and I do acknowledge my part in that. I am sorry”.

The Marianists not only failed to report Hartman’s crime to the police, they allowed him to remain in the United States where he was living at the time of Ashcroft’s report. The Marianists in the United States pledged to their Australian counterparts that they would “keep a close watch on Brother Bernard”.

Since The Age first reported this story additional victims have come forward to report their own sexual violation at the hands of Bernard Hartman. It is expected that with these new reports of criminal activity the Victoria Police in Australia may be able to extradite Hartman back to their country to face the justice that he has escaped for so many years.

The Age is also reporting that Mairead Ashcroft’s report in 1999 to church officials was not the first one they had received against Hartman. Another woman has come forward to report that in 1993 she informed church officials that Hartman had sexually assaulted her. Church officials assured her that the order would “monitor” Hartman. She now states that “I’d like him returned to Australia and to be charged and jailed. That is what the victims deserve from our justice system”.

A youth worker who was a colleague of Hartman in the 1970’s has also has come forward to report that Hartman showed students pictures of genitalia and masturbated in front of a young woman.

The case of Brother Hartman has come to light as a result of an employee at Catholic Care, a social welfare agency in Australia, who came forward to voice his frustration at how the church responded to reports of sexual assault by members of its clergy.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the Roman Catholic diocese of Cincinnati has confirmed that Brother Hartman is now living and working in Dayton Ohio. The spokesman for the diocese stated that Hartman is on a “safety plan” which does not allow him to work with young people or vulnerable women.

The spokesperson for the Marianist Province commented that “he’s doing clerical work, he’s basically stuffing envelopes. It’s an all adult environment and he’s very well supervised”. The “safety plan” that Hartman is on was approved by Praesidium, a risk management company hired by the religious order.

If Hartman is indeed “stuffing envelopes” it is time for him to end his clerical career in the United States and immediately return to Australia, turn himself in to law enforcement officials, and face the criminal justice system.

The case of Brother Hartman begs the question, how many other sex offending clerics from overseas have taken up residence in the United States and are now posing a threat to our children?

Unfortunately the answer to that question is known only to church officials themselves. It is time for the Marianists and every other religious order to publicly identify those clerics in their order who have sexually assaulted our children. Parents and the community need this information to keep our youngsters protected and safe.


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