Former Kc Priest and Wyoming Bishop Won’t Face Sex Abuse Charges, Alleged Victim Says
By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
June 9, 2020
After an investigation spanning two years, authorities in Wyoming are not filing criminal sex abuse charges against a former Kansas City priest who later became Bishop of Cheyenne, one of the alleged victims said Tuesday.
The man, who grew up in Cheyenne and now lives on the East Coast, said the witness coordinator in the Natrona County District Attorney’s office told him that Bishop Joseph Hart would not be prosecuted because of insufficient evidence.
“I think I am a little bit numb,” said the man, whose allegations were deemed credible by the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne in 2018. “Six people have come forward in Wyoming. What is the remedy for child sex abuse, then, if you don’t believe the victims and you’re not willing to take it to trial?
“The thing that I’m now hoping is that the Vatican will strip him of his priesthood while he’s alive.”
Hart, who served as Bishop of Cheyenne for 23 years, could not be reached for comment. Over the years, he has categorically denied all allegations against him. In 2018, he told a Star reporter who knocked on his door that “I’ve been told not to talk, but you could call my lawyer.” He was on oxygen at the time but said, “I feel fine. Doing great.” Then he closed the door, which bore a plaque that said, “Peace to all who enter here.”
If charged, Hart, 88, would have become the highest-ranking Roman Catholic cleric in the country to face criminal prosecution for sexual abuse of a minor.