The Rev. Charles Newman - accused of stealing more than $900,000 from two religious institutions - waived his preliminary hearing in court yesterday on felony theft and forgery charges.

The former president of Archbishop Ryan High School allegedly gave $54,000 of that money to a former student whom he is accused of having sexually abused.

Newman, 57, dressed in a dark blue sweater and black pants, stood next to his attorney, Frank DeSimone, during the brief proceeding.

He affirmed to Municipal Court Judge Marsha Neifield that he intended to waive his hearing. When asked if he suffers any mental-health problems, Newman told the judge: "I have been treated for depression in the past."

After the judge accepted his waiver and set arraignment for April 9, Newman, who is out on bail, was ushered out of the courtroom by his lawyer without making any comment.

Defendants typically waive preliminary hearings when there is enough evidence against them for the case to proceed to trial.

Deputy District Attorney Charles Gallagher would only say afterward that the evidence presented in a recent grand jury report "speaks for itself."

According to the grand jury presentment, dated Nov. 30 and released in December, Newman stole $331,916 and two grand pianos from Archbishop Ryan - the largest high school in the Philadelphia Archdiocese - during his tenure as president from July 2002 to Nov. 20, 2003, when he was fired.

During that period, he also is accused of improperly withdrawing more than $580,000 from bank accounts belonging to his Franciscan Friars order. That amount included 111 checks that he cashed totaling $552,280.

The amount also included two checks issued to former student Arthur Baselice III - for $32,000 and $2,200.

Baselice, who graduated from Ryan in 1996, also had been given $19,800 from the school accounts.

According to the presentment, when Baselice was a junior and senior at the school from 1994 to 1996, and was under 18 years old, Newman allegedly "repeatedly sexually abused him." Newman also allegedly introduced Baselice to "illegal, addictive narcotics which he shared with him on the occasions in which he was sexually abused," the document says.

The drugs were later identified by authorities as cocaine.

The report continued: "Newman also gave Arthur Baselice III cash to purchase narcotics, up until his graduation . . . " After graduation, Baselice "stopped Newman from sexually abusing him anymore but he continued to receive cash from Newman, for the purchase of narcotics."

Lawyer Jay Abramowitch, who in 2004 filed a lawsuit on Baselice's behalf against Newman's Franciscan Friars order, based in Wisconsin, has alleged that the payments to Baselice were intended not only for drugs, but to buy his silence.

Baselice, of Mantua, Gloucester County, N.J., died Nov. 30, 2006, of a drug overdose. He was 28.

Before serving as president of Ryan, Newman was principal of the Northeast Philadelphia school from 1993 to 2002, during which time he also taught religion.

According to the state law in effect at the time of Baselice's alleged sexual abuse, a child victim had until age 23 to file criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. His lawsuit was denied because the statute of limitations had passed.