Church: Wyoming sex abuse queries lacked victim cooperation

Church: Wyoming sex abuse queries lacked victim cooperation

Church: Wyoming sex abuse queries lacked victim cooperation

Retired Bishop Joseph H. Hart of Cheyenne, Wyo., is pictured in an undated photo. (Credit: CNS.)

Two Catholic Church officials who succeeded a Wyoming bishop accused of sexual abuse say a lack of victim cooperation hampered the investigations.

CASPER, Wyoming — Two Catholic Church officials who succeeded a Wyoming bishop accused of sexual abuse say a lack of victim cooperation hampered the investigations.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports at least 16 men said they were abused by former Bishop Joseph Hart, who retired in 2001.

Bishop David Ricken took over for Hart in Wyoming before transferring to Wisconsin in 2008. He was followed by Bishop Paul Etienne, who headed the Cheyenne diocese until 2016.

The diocese says a 2002 allegation against Hart was forwarded by Ricken to police but was dropped due to a lack of alleged victim cooperation.

The church says Etienne requested a Vatican investigation into Hart in 2010, but did not initiate his own investigation because alleged victims “were not willing to speak.”

Last week, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri said three people who accused Hart of sexual abuse are credible.

The three had raised allegations against the bishop over the past year.

Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri spokesman Jack Smith said two allege abuse in Wyoming but a review board considered only alleged abuse in Missouri.

Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, before moving to Wyoming in 1976 and eventually becoming bishop.

Hart has denied all allegations.


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