By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Franciscan Friar Father Charles Newman, the former president of Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia, has been sentenced to three to six years in state prison, followed by 10 years probation, for the theft of approximately $900,000 from the school and the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
Father Newman, who is also a former principal and religion teacher at Ryan, and a former treasurer of a Franciscan friary, was immediately taken into custody following the sentencing late Friday morning, May 22, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas at the Criminal Justice Center in Center City.
He received two concurrent terms of three to six years for the thefts. His 10-year term of probation for forgery will run consecutively upon his release from prison.
During his July 2002 to November 2003 tenure as president, Father Newman was accused of stealing from the school and the religious order.
According to a presentment issued in 2007 by an investigating grand jury, some of the misappropriated funds were given by Father Newman to Arthur Baselice III, a 1996 Archbishop Ryan alumnus Father Newman had allegedly sexually abused during the student’s junior and senior years while Baselice was under 18 years old.
The grand jury presentment stated that Father Newman introduced the student to “illegal, addictive narcotics, which he shared with him on the occasions in which he was sexually abused” and that Father Newman also gave Baselice cash to purchase narcotics.
The grand jury findings also noted that Baselice removed himself from the abusive situation after graduation, but that Father Newman continued to supply him with cash for the purchase of narcotics.
Arthur Baselice Jr. informed the grand jury that his son died of an adverse reaction to an illegal drug problem in November 2006 at the age of 28.
On Dec. 20, 2007, a grand jury indicted Father Newman with six counts of felony theft and one count of felony forgery.
Four days later, Father Newman surrendered to the District Attorney’s office on the felony theft and felony forgery charges brought against him.
On March 19, 2008, Father Newman waived his preliminary hearing in court.
On March 9, 2009, Father Newman pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft and one count of felony forgery.
Baselice’s parents both gave victim impact statements at Father Newman’s sentencing, as did Michael J. McArdle, the current president of Archbishop Ryan High School.
“The faculty and staff of Archbishop Ryan High School strive on a daily basis to provide the most supportive spiritual and educational environment for our students,” McArdle said in his statement.
“Parents entrust their children to us, and in return they expect that we will provide a high-quality academic experience in a Catholic setting that promotes social justice and teaches the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
McArdle said that trust was violated by the fraud and sexual abuse perpetrated by Father Newman.
“That a man of faith and a school leader would engage in such unlawful and immoral actions has caused irreparable harm,” McArdle continued.
As a result of the fraudulent use of funds, a number of families did not enroll their children and donors withheld their support, he said.
“As we now know, Father Newman’s betrayal was not limited to the fraudulent use of funds, but was part of a much greater tragedy – sexual abuse of minors,” continued McArdle.
“United in faith and goals, the faculty endeavors to teach as Jesus did so that our young people become contributing members in the communities of faith, of knowledge, of service,” McArdle said.
“Father Newman did great damage to that mission; he represents the polar opposite of what Archbishop Ryan High School stands for in educating our students.
“The damage is deep. Archbishop Ryan has worked hard to rebuild trust in the wake of this tragedy.”
McArdle said that in 2007, he and the director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Office for Child and Youth Protection sent a letter to Ryan alumni to offer assistance to any other possible victims of sexual abuse.
“We will not allow one former administrator’s criminal actions to define us,” McArdle concluded. “Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we pray for healing and continue to find hope in our faculty, school families, supporters and, most of all, our students.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.