[Media Statement] Vatican Punts on Bishop Joseph Hart instead of Taking Action, SNAP Renews Call for Secular Involvement
By Zach Hiner
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
January 26, 2021
Now that Vatican officials have formally chosen to do nothing to punish or isolate serially abusive former Bishop Joseph Hart, it is crucial that police and prosecutors double down on their pursuit of charges against him.
Cheyenne, WY police have already finished multiple investigations into Bishop Joseph Hart and have recommended that charges be filed against him. Given that this secular investigation by trained investigative professionals resulted in a recommendation for charges, we cannot take seriously the Vatican’s determination that Bishop Hart was not proven guilty “beyond a moral certitude.” The rebuke issued by the CDF is little more than a slap on the hand for Hart, but is surely a slap in the face to the men and women who were hurt by him and hoped to see some measure of justice done.
We hope that, in light of this disappointing-yet-not-surprising decision from the Vatican to do nothing against Bishop Hart, prosecutors will re-examine the case and reverse their previous decision.
At least 17 different people have alleged abuse by Hart. We know that there is no magical age at which a predator stops abusing children, and so we believe that Hart remains a threat today. Police and prosecutors should use their authority to get this dangerous man off the streets, helping protect children from the scourge of sexual abuse. We hope that they will act immediately.
Hart worked as a bishop in both Kansas City, MO and Cheyenne, WY, and therefore had immense power and stature. We can only imagine that there are victims – and victim suppression – in every single place he worked. This makes it even more critical that secular society step in to right the wrongs that allowed Hart to abuse so many and get away with it for so long.
We are grateful to Bishop Steven Biegler, the current Bishop of Cheyenne, who first recommended that police investigate his predecessor and offered up his files to them. No action, whether by the police or by the Vatican, would have occurred without Bishop Biegler’s decision to turn over documents to police. We hope that this example will inspire church officials everywhere.