KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A spokesman for the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri is announcing that four more allegations of sex abuse have been made this year against Bp. Emeritus Joseph Hart of Wyoming's Cheyenne diocese.
Reportedly, three men accused Bp. Hart of sexual abuse in Wyoming, and 10 more of Bp. Hart's alleged victims have already reached settlements with the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese — where Hart was ordained and served as a priest for 20 years.
But another four accusations have been made in the past year, a diocesan official said on Aug. 15.
Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas City-St.Joseph diocese, said that the diocese "has turned over all information we have about allegations pertaining to Bp. Hart to the diocese of Cheyenne, which I understand they have shared with local law enforcement in Cheyenne."
This apparently makes for 17 known abuse allegations against the bishop emeritus of Cheyenne. Some say there are even more victims who have not yet come forward.
On Aug. 14, the Cheyenne Police Department announced it was recommending criminal charges against two people accused of sexually abusing minors. The police did not disclose the names of the accused, but news reports noted that some of the allegations against Bp. Hart match the allegations described by the police.
In June this year, it was reported that there would be a Vatican trial on the allegations against Bp. Hart. The diocese of Cheyenne had forwarded the case to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) after a diocesan inquiry deemed abuse allegations credible — allegations which had previously been dismissed as non-credible back in 2002.
The diocese of Cheyenne now includes Bp. Hart's name on a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. It notes in the document that Pope Francis has imposed restrictions on Bp. Hart, pending the CDF's ruling on the case.
Hart was ordained a priest in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in 1956. He was appointed vice chancellor of the diocese in the late 1960s.
In 1976, Hart was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Cheyenne diocese — which encompasses the entire state of Wyoming. Then, in 1978, he became the head of the same diocese.
Bishop Hart remained in power in the Cheyenne diocese for more than 20 years, until his retirement in 2001.
Some of Bp. Hart's accusers say he sexually abused them during road trips across the West, including trips going back and forth between Missouri and Wyoming.
Regarding the four new claims, Smith said, "The abuse did not occur in Cheyenne, but it did not necessarily occur in Missouri, either."
Another tactic that Hart allegedly used was befriending a family and abusing multiple boys in that family. Smith commented, "That's been a big deal with Bp. Hart because his pattern was to abuse brothers, so a whole family was affected by the abuse that he inflicted on these young men."
The earliest alleged abuse by Hart is said to have occurred in 1963, when Hart was a parish priest in Missouri.
But at least one of the allegations against Hart dates to his time as auxiliary bishop in Wyoming. The anonymous man who made the claim in 2002 stated that when he was 14 years old, Bp. Hart coerced him on several occasions into exposing himself. He claimed to remember the bishop pressuring him to expose himself during the sacrament of confession under the pretext of wanting the boy to explain how he committed sins of lust.
It was reported in 2011 that Hart and two other clergy were being accused of sexually abusing underage boys at a lakehouse in northern Missouri in the mid-1970s.