Wyoming Reopens Catholic Sex Abuse Case

The case involves Bishop Emeritus Joseph Hart

The Catholic Church, already beaten by blasts of sexual abuse allegations from around the world, will get another one. The Diocese of Cheyenne and Diocese of Green Bay have contacted local law enforcement authorities to reopen an old sexual abuse case involving a former priest, Bishop Emeritus Joseph Hart. Among the many cases against him, the police have zeroed upon one particular instance of a 14-year-old male allegedly abused by the priest in 1977.

Hart has served as Bishop of Cheyenne for a little more than two decades from 1978 to 2001. The Cheyenne victim first contacted the police in 2002. He was however hesitant to do a full interview with the police. The no-show cleared the priest of all charges. The district attorney cleared the priest, stating lack of evidence.

The Catholic Church, for a change, has taken the step to go after one of its own. The move to persecute Hart was initiated by the present Bishop of Cheyenne, Steven Biegler. He said for too long the powerful have controlled all conversation. Biegler became a bishop in 2017 and almost immediately started the investigation into the long-festering allegations made against Hart. According to the incumbent bishop, clarity must be found on this issue.

An investigation by the church led to the unearthing of new evidence. Biegler consequently asked the police to reopen the old case. To justify going after his own kind, he said that his actions are a consequence of his faith. He quoted the phase of the church's mission: to protect the weak and heal those who need it the most.

Hart is a controversial figure not only in Wyoming but also in other states. The St. Joseph Diocese in Kansas City, Missouri has paid substantial sums of money as settlements to victims who claim the former priest abused them when he was working there. Following Wyoming, the Green Bay Diocese has opened church files to an investigator not aligned with the church.

Wyoming is one of the few states where there is no statute of limitations when it comes to crimes linked to child sexual abuse. This enabled the police, along with Diocese of Cheyenne, to reopen the decades-old case.

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