‘How do you say no to a bishop?’: Hart accusers say they survived years of trauma and institutional failures

Casper Star Tribune

July 4, 2020

By Seth Klamann

Joseph Hart became a priest in 1955, and over his 46-year career in Kansas City and Wyoming, he developed a reputation for ingratiating himself with families in his flock, especially brothers.

Hart would walk into the Hunter family’s Kansas City home without ringing the doorbell. They never locked their doors — the whole neighborhood was like that. Hart, who in the late ‘50s was just starting out as a priest, was like family to the Hunters; his photo hung in the living room. Mrs. Hunter worked in the cafeteria of Guardian Angels, Hart’s first parish. Darrel, her son, worked at the church after school and over the summer.

John’s father died when he was young. His brother did housework around the Kansas City rectory where Hart lived in the 1960s, when Hart worked at the attached Catholic school. John remembers all the soda Hart had, so much that John would sneak Pepsi to his friends. His mother had Hart over for dinner, happy to have an adult male presence in the lives of her seven children.

The church gave Martin’s mother a job at a Cheyenne elementary school, one of three jobs she worked after his father abandoned the family. The church gave them food, and Martin and his brother did chores for Hart, who arrived in Wyoming in the mid-1970s to become bishop, the highest-ranking Catholic in the state. As such, he commanded significant authority and respect from the tens of thousands of Catholics in Wyoming.

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