CHEYENNE, Wyoming – The Diocese of Cheyenne announced Wednesday that it has found credible a third allegation of child sexual abuse committed by Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart.
After the diocese announced in July that a canonical investigation had concluded there was “credible and substantiated” evidence that Hart had abused two Wyoming boys, “a third individual reported that he, too, was sexually abused by Bishop Hart in 1980,” the diocese said Aug. 29.
“The diocese reported the allegation to the Cheyenne Police Department and is cooperating with their investigation.”
The Cheyenne diocese said Hart declined to be interviewed as part of the investigation, and that the investigation’s findings were handed over to the Diocesan Review Board.
The review board found the allegation credible and substantiated, and the investigation has been forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“I commend the victim for having the courage to contact us. If anyone has been abused, no matter how long ago, I encourage you to come forward,” Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said.
“I want to listen to you and accompany you on a journey of healing. Recently, Pope Francis said of the sex abuse scandal, ‘We abandoned the little ones.’ As we move forward, we must heed the call of the Lord Jesus to be guardians of the least.”
Hart has denied accusations of abusing minors.
His first accusers came forward in 1989, when he was alleged to have abused boys while serving as a priest in Kansas City. Ten individuals named Hart in lawsuits related to child sexual abuse claims dating from the 1970s. These accusations were part of settlements the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached in 2008 and 2014, though Hart denied the accusations, the Missouri diocese said July 2.
Hart was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph in 1956, where he served until he was named an auxiliary bishop in Cheyenne in 1976, and appointed to lead the diocese two years later. He served as Bishop of Cheyenne until his resignation in 2001 at the age of 70.