Church Officials Move Slowly on Abusive KC Priest Promoted to Bishop

Catholic officials are keeping kids at risk by dragging their feet with a bishop who has multiple “substantiated” allegations of child sexual abuse.

Bishop Joseph Hart is accused of molesting at least ten Missouri boys, and he has allegations from at least six boys in Wyoming. Yet bishops in Kansas City, Cheyenne and Rome are moving at a snail’s pace to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

Kansas City church officials are reportedly putting any diocesan effort “on hold until the process in Rome finishes.” But no matter what happens in Rome, cases have already been settled against Bishop Hart here, and the last diocese he worked in has publicly named him among those clergy with “substantiated” allegations of abuse. Given this, there is nothing preventing Bishop James Vann Johnston, Jr. from warning parents, parishioners, prosecutors, and police about Bishop Hart, using pulpit announcements, church bulletins and parish websites. In fact, we believe it is the bishop’s civic and moral duty to do this, immediately and aggressively.

In Kansas City, there are no doubt still some adults who may trust their kids around Bishop Hart, and we are confident that there are still victims who are suffering because of his abuse.

We believe Wyoming Bishop Steven Biegler took more steps to warn police and the public about Bishop Hart than his predecessors did. But there is so much more he could and should do to safeguard children and help victims now. For starters, Bishop Biegler should immediately identify the altar server who Cheyenne police recommended charges against back in August and take steps to warn the public about this man, too.

Meanwhile, Vatican officials were asked by a prior Wyoming bishop to investigate Bishop Hart in 2010, almost a decade ago. It is indefensible for top Catholic officials to have taken so long to act. We hope parishioners and the public will remember this disturbing case and painfully slow action the next time they hear Church officials claim that they have changed how they deal with horrific child sex crimes and cover ups.

CONTACT: David Clohessy, SNAP Missouri (davidgclohessy@gmail.com, 314-566-9790)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org


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