A Catholic Brother who sexually abused children in the Altona area in the 1970s and ’80s was released from jail on Sunday to return to the supervision of his church in the US.
Bernard Joseph Hartman, 78, a former teacher at St Paul’s College in Altona North, was jailed for three years with one year suspended for sustained sexual abuse, including penetration, of a boy and two girls as young as eight.
Altona’s Mairead Ashcroft, who brought the first charge against Hartman that led to his extradition from the US, said she held concerns about his supervision by his Marianist order.
“When we were in court we heard that while he was being supervised here, he was allowed to go for a 10-day holiday to Apollo Bay with the Christian Brothers over the Australia Day weekend while families were having a holiday at the beach,” Ms Ashcroft said.
“So, he was exposed to children there while he was in supervision with the church.
“He was freely allowed to go to the casino precinct, unsupervised.
“He retains his full title, so with that full title comes power and trust that he’s not worthy of.”
After the charges against Hartman in Australia became known, 19 people in the US informed the Diocese of Pittsburgh they had been abused by eight Marianist brothers, including Hartman, at North Catholic High School where he taught.
Father Martin A. Solma, Provincial of the Marianist Province of the United States, told Star Weekly the allegations covered a spectrum of complaints, from “hitting on the back of the head to things more serious”.
He would not disclose Hartman’s future location for privacy reasons.
“Bernard Hartman will be resident in a non-Marianist facility, specialising in direct supervision of men with significant personal issues and/or legal convictions,” Father Martin said.
“The supervision is 24/7 with no external ministry of any kind or freedom of movement outside the facility. This will be his living situation for the rest of his life.
“He remains a member of the congregation just as he remains a member of his own family.
“We feel that expulsion, though punitive and satisfying the desire of some for retribution, is unwise.
“A living situation that is supervisory in nature, lasting for the rest of his days, is better for all concerned.”