Suit Accuses Former Catholic School Official of Sexual Abuse

By David B. Caruso
Associated Press
June 16, 2004

Philadelphia - A man filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming the principal at the city's largest Roman Catholic high school plied him with cocaine and alcohol, pressured him into sex, and then secretly paid him thousands of dollars to feed his drug habit.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia, accused the Rev. Charles Newman of sexually abusing the teen between 1994 and 1996 while he was a student at Archbishop Ryan High School.

Newman resigned as the school's president in November after church officials said auditors had found indications of "financial irregularities" in the school's budget. He became principal at the school in 1993 and was promoted to president in 2002.

Appearing at a news conference with his family and his attorneys, Arthur Baselice III, the son of a former Philadelphia police detective, said he was 16 when his relationship with Newman began.

"I thought it was wrong," Baselice said, but he added that he was confused and addicted to drugs. "I took trust in this man, and I was a kid."

In the lawsuit, Baselice, now 25, alleges that Newman supplied him with alcohol, cocaine and marijuana, required him to visit him daily at his residence at the St. Pius X Friary, then had him commit sexual acts while he was drunk or high.

Baselice said the sexual contact stopped in 1996, but claimed that Newman continued to sporadically give him money to purchase drugs or pay off debts.

The suit said Newman gave Baselice a check for $10,800 in 2002, and made an additional payment of $32,000 in January of 2003. Baselice's attorney, Jay Abramowitch, said the payments included checks drawn on a high school account.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a written statement Wednesday that it learned of "possible misconduct/allegations of abuse and misappropriation of funds involving Father Newman" early in the course of its investigation into the school's finances.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said officials reported their findings to Philadelphia prosecutors in December.

Attempts to locate Newman were not immediately successful. The archdiocese said Newman had returned to his religious order, the Wisconsin-based Franciscan Friars Assumption BVM Province, which declined to reveal his whereabouts. A Philadelphia lawyer identified by the order as Newman's attorney did not return a phone message.

In the lawsuit, Baselice also claimed to have been sexually abused by a second priest at the friary, but did not include his full name.

Baselice also accused an administrator in Newman's order, the Rev. Thomas Luczak, of improperly offering him $50,000 to give up any legal claims.

Baselice said the offer came this spring, after the family began speaking with church officials about the alleged abuse, and had accepted an offer from the archdiocese to pay for counseling.

The suit said that while Baselice was a patient at the Caron Foundation, a substance abuse treatment facility in Berks County, Luczak repeatedly asked him to sign a settlement.

The Philadelphia archdiocese said it was unaware of the offer. It said if the allegation was true, Luczak was acting independently.

Luczak, in a written statement, declined to comment on the suit, but said Newman was removed from active ministry when the order became aware of the abuse allegations.

The suit names the archdiocese, the high school, Luczak and his order, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as defendants. Rigali last year replaced the retiring Bevilacqua as Philadelphia's archbishop.

Newman is not named in the suit, which is one of more than a dozen that have been filed against the church in Philadelphia alleging that the archdiocese covered up evidence of abuse by priests.

A grand jury in Philadelphia has been investigating whether church officials broke any law in their handling of dozens of abuse allegations over the decades.

Archbishop Ryan High School canceled all classes scheduled for Thursday, which was to have been the last day of the school year.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.