Settlement Leaves Victims of Abuse by Priests Cold
Final Closure of the Lawsuit Does Not Erase Memories of the Crime

By Bill McCarthy
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
August 23, 2008

CHEYENNE - Three men who allege sexual assault by former Wyoming Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Hart said Friday that the $10 million settlement of a lawsuit is small comfort compared to a lifetime of suffering.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, where Hart served as a priest early in his career, has agreed to settle sexual--abuse claims against the diocese and 12 priests brought by 47 victims who said the incidents occurred between 1951 and 1992.

Diocese spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said Bishop Robert W. Finn received unanimous recommendations from two diocese boards Thursday to approve the settlement - a stipulation of church law, The Associated Press reported.

"I would trade all the money if I could make it so that it never happened," said Mike Hunter, 59, who alleges Hart abused him and his brother as boys dating back to 1963.

"I guess it brings some closure," Hunter added, "but it (the pain) will never go away."

The other two men declined to give their names to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Hart has denied all the charges. His attorney in Kansas City, R. Lawrence Ward, indicated in an e--mail that Hart's position on the claims would be presented "at the appropriate time."

The settlement was announced earlier this week, but the diocese still needed to sign off, as do all the priests and alleged victims. That could take several more business days.

Along with the $10 million, the deal calls for the diocese to meet 19 non--monetary conditions, including publicly announcing and acknowledging the wrongfulness of sexual abuse by its priests.

On Wednesday, Bishop Robert Finn made a blanket apology for all the priests, including Hart, who were named in the Kansas City, Mo., civil lawsuits.

On Friday, the alleged victims said that the non--monetary stipulations and the public apology were the most important parts of the settlement for them.

They said they hope that acknowledgement by the church that the abuse occurred and the steps that the diocese is to take under the settlement will help prevent future incidents, as well as provide treatment and some healing for the victims.

All three said that they have faced a lifetime of difficult or failed relationships with spouses, bouts with alcohol and drugs, loss of self--worth and suicidal tendencies because of the abuse. Those problems lead to employment trouble and problems with children and extended family as well, they said.

They also talked of an inability to control rage and anxiety at times, an overwhelming sense of shame and the loss of religious faith.

Each said that they were lacking a father figure, and their religious mothers were devoted to the church. As a result, their mothers trusted them with the priests.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.