An investigation in Kansas City into abuse charges against former Wyoming bishop Joseph Hart is on hold until the Vatican completes its administrative penal process, the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune reported.
Hart has faced allegations of sexual abuse against minors for nearly 30 years. His abuse allegedly began when he was a priest in Kansas City, where he worked for 20 years. He moved to Wyoming in 1976 to become the auxiliary bishop before becoming full bishop in 1978. He retired in 2001.
Current Wyoming Bishop Steven Biegler announced in June that Hart, who has been accused of sexual abuse by more than 10 men, would face adjudication by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The body was first formed to safeguard church doctrine and to investigate heretics nearly 500 years ago.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has settled with at least 10 more men who said Hart abused them when they were minors.Rebecca Randles, an attorney in Kansas City who has represented several of Hart’s victims, told the Star-Tribune earlier this month that Hart was the “ringleader” of a trio of clergymen who abused dozens of boys in Kansas City. The other two clerics — Thomas O’Brien and Thomas Reardon — and Hart allegedly brought boys to a lake house in northern Missouri, where the minors were plied with alcohol and abused..
At least six men have accused Hart of abusing them in Wyoming, according to the Diocese of Cheyenne. All six of those allegations have been deemed substantiated by a diocese review board.
According to Crux Now, a Catholic news outlet that’s covered Hart extensively, the former bishop is likely to face a trial in front of five judges. A similar process was followed when the CDF investigated McCarrick and Anthony Apuron, the Guam archbishop. Crux Now also reported that former Wyoming bishop Paul Etienne asked the CDF to investigate Hart in 2010. It’s unclear why the case didn’t move forward then.
It is not known how long the investigation being done by the Vatican will last.
Hart has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
–Alan Gorforth | Metro Voice