Update on allegations of sexual abuse by Bishop Joseph Hart
Statement from Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop Stephen Biegler of the Diocese of Cheyenne has informed me that the ongoing case regarding allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by Bishop Joseph Hart has reached its conclusion. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has issued both a canonical rebuke of the now retired Bishop Hart, and a definitive decree.
This case is of special interest to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph because several of the accusations against Bishop Hart originated from our diocese, dating to the time when he served here as a priest prior to becoming a bishop in Cheyenne in 1976.
The canonical rebuke stated that Bishop Hart remains prohibited from “presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of the Liturgy” and also that he not to have “any contact with minors, youth, seminarians and vulnerable adults.” While the decree from the CDF exonerated Bishop Hart of seven accusations, two were not considered crimes against minors because of the ages of the accusers at the time, and five others were considered “not proven,” meaning that they did not reach the level of moral certitude necessary for determining guilt.
This has been a long and often difficult process, especially for the survivors and their families who bravely shared their stories. I am grateful for the courage and perseverance of those who brought this matter to a point of decision; the survivors, their families and Bishop Biegler.
While a decision has been rendered, we must not lose hope. The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph remains committed to protecting the most vulnerable and to the ongoing work of accompanying survivors on the path to healing. I invite all the faithful to join me in prayer, particularly for all those who have been directly wounded by clerical sexual abuse, themselves and their families, and for the Church.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph continues to make the safety of our children a top priority. The Diocese takes very seriously all allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against employees, clerics or volunteers who serve in the diocese. Anyone who has knowledge of such abuse or inappropriate behavior with a minor is encouraged to make a confidential report with the Ombudsman. If you were harmed by Bishop Joseph Hart or any other person who has worked or volunteered for the diocese, no matter how long ago, the diocese wants to provide care and healing resources to you and your family. Please contact the Ombudsman, Joe Crayon, at 816.812.2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Hart’s name is included on the diocese’s List of Accused Clerics with Substantiated Allegations, which can be found on the diocesan website here.