NATIONAL NEWS

A retired Wyoming bishop cleared by Vatican of sexual abuse despite local findings has died at 91

Aug 24, 2023, 6:15 PM

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 1988 file photo, Rev. Joseph Hart dispenses communion during an outdoor Mass celebrated for participants of the Basque Festival in Buffalo, Wyo. Hart, cleared by the Vatican of multiple allegations he sexually abused minors and teenagers, after a review board under his diocese in Wyoming found that allegations against him were credible, has died, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023 according to the Diocese of Cheyenne. He was 91. (AP Photo/Dean Wariner,File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Dean Wariner,File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A former U.S. bishop cleared by the Vatican of multiple allegations he sexually abused minors and teenagers, after a review board under his diocese in Wyoming found that allegations against him were credible, has died.

Retired Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart, of Cheyenne, died Wednesday, according to the Diocese of Cheyenne. He was 91.

Hart long maintained his innocence, denying all allegations of misconduct. In 2021, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cleared him of seven accusations of abuse and determined that five others couldn’t be proven with certainty.

Two other cases involving boys who were 16 and 17 couldn’t be prosecuted because the Catholic Church didn’t consider them minors at the time of the alleged abuse. The Vatican decree didn’t address another alleged victim.

Hart’s attorney, Thomas Jubin, at the time called some of the allegations “specious,” based on second- and third-hand information and some accusers emphasizing that Hart didn’t physically touch them.

But the Vatican findings disappointed Hart’s successor, Wyoming Bishop Steven Biegler, who pointed out that they didn’t mean Hart was innocent, only that a high burden of proof hadn’t been met.

Biegler stood by the findings of a diocese review board appointed after he became bishop that determined six claims were credible. The board included a judge who, as a prosecutor, pursued criminal cases of child sexual abuse.

Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, for 20 years before moving to Wyoming, where he served as auxiliary and then full bishop from 1976 until his retirement in 2001.

The first known allegations against Hart dated to the early 1960s and were made in the late 1980s. At least six men have come forward in the past several years to say Hart abused them in Wyoming.

Hart’s previous diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached court settlements years ago with at least 10 victims. Prosecutors in Wyoming decided in 2020 not to proceed with charging Hart.

National News

Associated Press

Federal judge who presided over R. Kelly trial dead at 87 after battling lung cancer

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who presided over singer R. Kelly’s trial on child sex abuse charges, has died. He was 87. Leinenweber died Tuesday evening, the eastern division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Leinenweber had been diagnosed with lung […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Florida’s DeSantis boasts about $116.5B state budget, doesn’t detail what he vetoed

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spent more than an hour talking about what is in the $116.5 billion he signed Monday, but he left out the most important part of the announcement: What was in the nearly $1 billion he vetoed. The Legislature passed a state budget more than three months ago, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 deputies shot while responding to northern Illinois home, suspect also wounded, official says

DIXON, Ill. (AP) — Three sheriff’s deputies were shot Wednesday while responding to a northern Illinois home, and the suspect was also wounded, authorities told reporters. Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said the deputies were responding to a report that someone inside the home was threatening to kill themself or others. He said the suspect […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Text of the policy statement the Federal Reserve released Wednesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — Below is the statement the Federal Reserve released Wednesday after its latest policy meeting ended: Recent indicators suggest that economic activity has continued to expand at a solid pace. Job gains have remained strong, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation has eased over the past year but remains elevated. In […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Oklahoma Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit of last Tulsa Race Massacre survivors seeking reparations

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit of the last two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, dampening the hope of advocates for racial justice that the government would make amends for one of the worst single acts of violence against Black people in U.S. history. The nine-member […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Florida’s 2024 hurricane season arrives with a rainy deluge

Dangerous flooding from a tropical disturbance inundated much of southern Florida on Wednesday, blocking roads, floating vehicles and delaying the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers. The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly the same time as the […]

4 hours ago

A retired Wyoming bishop cleared by Vatican of sexual abuse despite local findings has died at 91