- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The head of a St. Louis-based religious order has apologized for sex abuse allegedly perpetrated by eight of its religious brothers who taught or worked at a high school in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh decades ago.

The allegations against the Marianist brothers began to surface in March after the diocese learned that a former teacher, Brother Bernard Hartman, 74, is awaiting trial in Australia on charges he abused four students at a Catholic school there in the 1970s and 1980s.

When the diocese sent letters alerting graduates of what is now named Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, they received one new allegation against Hartman - who last taught at the school in 1997 - and more than 20 against seven other brothers, all but one of whom who is known to be dead.

“First, I apologize to the victims who have suffered, some of you for many years,” wrote the Rev. Martin Solma, the supervisor of the Marianist Province of the USA.

“In asking for forgiveness, I only hope that the misdeeds of these Brothers do not entirely nullify the service and witness of others who have served the mission of the Diocese of Pittsburgh more faithfully,” Solma wrote.

The religious order runs 19 high schools in various parts of the country, including the Pittsburgh school formerly known simply as North Catholic. The group contends they didn’t know about the newer abuse allegations until reading media reports.

However, Pittsburgh church officials learned only in March that the Marianists removed Brother Hartman from the Pittsburgh school in 1997, after the Marianists first learned of the Australian allegations. Solma’s letter, which is being printed in the newest edition of the diocesan newspaper, said the Marianists have new policies and procedures in place to “prevent any tolerance for abusive behavior.”

The other brothers since accused taught or worked at the school between 1940 and 1990.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik on Friday called the letter “an act of sensitivity for any people who were victims” and “an act of sensitivity for the diocese.”