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Friar who headed Archbishop Ryan to be paroled

Charles Newman was convicted of theft, accused of sexual abuse.

Arthur Baselice Jr., left, with a picture of his  son, Arthur Baselice III on a poster about his son's death of an overdose and abuse by Rev. Charles Newman, former president of Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia . ( Curt Hudson Photo )
Arthur Baselice Jr., left, with a picture of his son, Arthur Baselice III on a poster about his son's death of an overdose and abuse by Rev. Charles Newman, former president of Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia . ( Curt Hudson Photo )Read more

ARTHUR BASELICE Jr. is a lost soul, a man destroyed by the Catholic Church.

His son, Arthur Baselice III, died at age 28 of a drug overdose, and the father has blamed Charles Newman, the Franciscan friar and former president of Archbishop Ryan High School, for his death.

Newman was convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school and his religious order. He was sentenced in May 2009 to three to six years in state prison, followed by 10 years' probation.

On Monday, he is scheduled to be released on parole and sent to the Self-Help Movement community correction center - a halfway house - on Southampton Road in the Far Northeast, according to a letter by the Office of the Victim Advocate, provided to the Daily News by Baselice Jr.

The fact that Newman could soon be free to walk the streets outrages Baselice Jr.

The father, the son (when he was alive) and authorities had accused Newman of sexually abusing the son starting when he was a 16-year-old junior at Ryan, the largest high school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which at the time had been run by the friars.

They also contended that the abuse continued for years after Baselice III graduated in 1996, and that Newman got him hooked on drugs and gave him thousands of dollars in hush money.

The son had also accused another Franciscan cleric who had worked at Ryan of sexual abuse. Newman was known at the school as Father Charles.

Because of the statute of limitations, Newman and the other cleric could not be charged with sex abuse. The other man has not been charged with any crime, so the Daily News is not naming him.

Baselice Jr. said he has been frustrated by the lack of transparency among the higher-ups of the Archdiocese and the friars.

At noon on the first Friday of every month for the past five years, Baselice Jr. said he has been holding a vigil in front of the Archdiocese's headquarters on 17th Street near Race in Center City. He said he plans to continue his monthly vigils.

He holds a sign with the photos of his son, Newman and the other cleric. Next to the clerics' names are these words in bold red letters: "Partners in sexual abuse." He also holds both men responsible for the 2006 death of his son, he said.

"How do they heal me?" Baselice Jr., 65, of Mantua, Gloucester County, asked yesterday, referring to church higher-ups. "What is the remedy for me and my family? Don't tell me to pray."

It is not clear how long Newman, 63, will stay in the halfway house. He has requested to have his parole supervision transferred to Wisconsin, where his religious order is based.

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole said it could not confirm Newman's release date or say where he will go. In general, if an inmate wants his parole transferred to a different state, the parole board here and the receiving state would both need to grant permission.

Brother Andrew Brophy, secretary of the Franciscan friars order in Franklin, Wisc., said yesterday that Newman is still a member of the friars. But he would not confirm whether or not that means he is still a priest, what his status is with the order, or whether he would be welcomed back to Wisconsin to live and minister with his fellow friars.

In an April 2011 document about Newman's status, Father Leslie Hoppe, then the provincial minister of Newman's Franciscan order, wrote that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determined that Newman could "remain in the Order and in the clerical state" under certain conditions.

Those conditions included that he not exercise priestly ministry, not "celebrate Mass publicly" or administer the sacraments, and that he not wear clerical garb or present himself publicly as a priest. The document "doesn't say when the restrictions end or if it's for lifetime," said Baselice Jr., who gave the Daily News a copy of the document.

Baselice Jr. said he fears Newman will be able to return to Wisconsin, will once again hear confessions and could be a danger to youths.

Charles Gallagher, a former deputy district attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, who prosecuted Newman on the theft charges, also worries that could happen.

"Based on what we found out in the investigation, I believe he could still be a danger to children," Gallagher, now chief deputy district attorney of the Lehigh County D.A.'s office, said.

Newman had twice been denied parole. In the parole board's November decision granting him parole, it noted that upon his release, Newman is required to "submit to an evaluation to determine [his] need for sex offender treatment/service." Newman will be under parole supervision until May 22, 2015.

Prosecutors had contended that Newman stole more than $900,000 from Archbishop Ryan, in Northeast Philadelphia, and from his Franciscan order from July 2002 to Nov. 20, 2003. He was fired from the school.

The Franciscan order has paid the archdiocese about $488,000 to cover the $331,916 Newman stole from Ryan and the costs of an accounting firm's investigation and report, archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin said.

"We pray for all victims of sexual abuse," Gavin added. "The Archdiocese is firmly committed to the prevention of sexual abuse and fostering the safest possible environment for children and young people. We've continually worked to strengthen policies and procedures in that regard."

It is not clear if Newman paid back any money he stole from the friars. Brophy did not return a second call by the Daily News.