Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne Said the Case Regarding Bishop Hart Reached Its End
Wyoming News Now
January 26, 2021
|A picture of the Diocese of Cheyenne front door. August, 2019.(Grace Foulk / KGWN)|
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - In a release put out by the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, the Diocese said, “The ongoing case regarding allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by Bishop Joseph Hart has reached its conclusion.” In a multi-page release, the Diocese said, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has concluded its process of looking into sexual abuse allegations.
The Catholic Diocese said the CDF has issued a definitive decree on the case of Bishop Hart. In the release, the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne said, “Bishop Hart was exonerated of seven accusations, and five other accusations could not be proven with moral certitude. These accusations involved 11 males and one female. Therefore, based on the assessment of the bishop delegate, Bishop Hart’s guilt was not proven with moral certitude, which is held to be equivalent to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the legal standard of proof required to impose a criminal conviction. These findings do not equate to innocence; rather, a high burden of proof has not been met.”
The Diocese also said, “Furthermore, the definitive decree stated that two additional accusations could not be considered delicts since the alleged victims were not under the age of 16; the two male individuals were 16 and 17 years old. At the time, the Code of Canon Law restricted a delict against the sixth commandment with a minor to those under 16 years of age. As a matter of record, it should be noted that the decree made no mention of assessing one credible allegation of a male under 16 years of age, which the Diocese of Cheyenne reported to the CDF. This individual’s name was not listed in the allegations adjudicated in the penal process.”
The release also said that the CDF had issued Bishop Hart a canonical rebuke.
There’s more to the press release, including a statement from Bishop Steven Biegler. That can be found here.
Thomas B. Jubin, with Jubin & Zerga LLC, Attorneys at Law, also issued a release on Monday, January 25, 2021. He said the allegations against Bishop Hart are “unwarranted.” He also said the findings exonerating the Bishop “are both welcome and expected.”
Below is the full press release from Mr. Jubin.
The findings of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exonerating Bishop Hart are both welcome and expected, for the Church’s finding follows two separate but similarly lengthy and diligent investigations conducted by local law enforcement that reached the same conclusion: The allegations made against Bishop Hart are unwarranted.
Bishop Hart absolutely believes that all victims of clerical abuse should come forward to seek justice, but justice can only occur when there is due process. Due process is what Bishop Hart has sought since these allegations were made nearly two decades ago, and that process did not substantiate claims of wrongdoing.
Why Bishop Biegler chose to disregard due process and sought to try and convict Bishop Hart in the court of public opinion is unclear. This unfortunate effort continues today. Even before speaking with the accusers, Bishop Biegler asserted that the allegations against Bishop Hart were both “credible” and “substantiated.” This is neither compassionate nor a search for justice; it is grandstanding. Now, Biegler attempts to confuse the Church decision by turning Bishop Hart’s exoneration into a focus on the rebuke for having put himself in a position for such unproven claims to fester.
While details of the allegations remain appropriately sealed, had Bishop Biegler waited for these investigations to conclude before issuing public judgments he would have known that multiple allegations were specious, based on second- and even third-hand information, or that a number of accusers emphasized to investigators that the supposed incidents involved no physical contact of any kind. That Bishop Biegler continues to assert Bishop Hart’s guilt despite these findings suggests his interest is not a credible 2 concern for victims but a personal failing or a scandalous personal vendetta against Bishop Hart for reasons that remain unclear.
Bishop Hart has had to live under the cloud of these allegations for many years, especially so since Bishop Biegler was installed as Bishop of Cheyenne and began this divisive, irresponsible and unfathomable campaign against his predecessor. Despite this, Bishop Hart asks me to convey that he continues to pray for all involved in this case so that they may find peace and healing. He now asks, and I ask, too, that he may now be afforded peace in the twilight of this life as he prepares to meet his God in the next.
This is the end of the press release.