The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

Vatican Exempts US Bishop Despite "Credible" Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors


Joseph Hart, from a Catholic congregation in Wisconsin, faced a dozen charges that pediatricians, judges, psychologists and police deemed legitimate. The Holy See said it was only "lack of prudence." We explain why.

By Telemundo News

More than a dozen accusations of abuse of minors during the sacrament of confession weighed against retired American Bishop Joseph Hart.

And a panel of specialists considered that at least half of them were very credible.

But the Vatican, led by Pope Francis, decided not to agree. 

In a canonical review process started in 2018 and just concluded, the Holy See exempted Hart in seven of the complaints;

considered that another five 

could not be demonstrated "with moral certainty"; 

and decided that another two did not proceed because the complainants were already 16 and 17 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, which, for the Catholic Church, meant that they were no longer minors.

According to a prelate, the decision does not mean that Hart was declared "innocent" by the Vatican, but that the highest body of the Catholic Church allegedly did not receive what it considers sufficient evidence.

Advocates for survivors of clerical abuse extolled the decision

, calling it yet another sign of impunity within the Catholic Church despite countless reports of clerical abuse around the world.

Hart was a priest for 21 years in Kansas City, Missouri, and later a bishop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, between 1976 and 2001. The diocese in Missouri has already reached settlements with 10 victims, but accusations from Wyoming were pending.

During the trial against Hart, new complaints also emerged in New York.

The case was originally reviewed by a

group of lay experts

convened by the current head of the Cheyenne diocese, Steven Biegler.

[Diocese of Pennsylvania pays $ 84 million to 500 abuse victims]

Joseph Hart with a girl during an outdoor mass in Wyoming in September 1988.AP /

Biegler said that the panel to review the complaints had included "a member of the security forces; school administration personnel; a doctor in psychology; a pediatrician; a psychotherapist who deals with child victims of sexual abuse, and a judge who during For 13 years he was a prosecutor for crimes related to minors, especially sexual abuse ”.


the final decision was left to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)

, a Vatican grouping of priests and bishops experts in canon law that succeeded the Holy Inquisition. 

After the canonical trial, the congregation said only that Hart, 89, committed a "flagrant lack of prudence" by what he described simply as actions that "could give rise to a scandal among the faithful."

The raw account of a Latino abused by a Catholic seminarian as a child

Oct. 2, 201805: 37

There was no punishment, despite the fact that the congregation itself acknowledged that Hart had not complied with a prior request from a cardinal asking him not to live with minors or seminarians.

Advocates for victims of church abuse are now

asking civil authorities to investigate the allegations against Hart.

[The Catholic Church in Texas identifies 286 priests who abused children over the decades]

"The reprimand from the CDF is nothing more than a

slap on the

wrist for him, while 

for the men and women who were hurt by him it is a slap in the face

, as they hoped there would be some justice," the official said in a statement. SNAP group, an acronym for the Network of Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Priests.

The Wyoming prosecution had previously ruled out filing a criminal charge: "We hope that, in the face of this disappointing but not surprising decision by the Vatican, the attorneys will reexamine the case."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been criticized on several occasions for being lenient in the face of the

barrage in various parts of the world of allegations of clerical sexual abuse of

minors, adults and nuns, as well as allegations of cover-up.

The exceptions of prelates who have been punished are few.

The highest-profile case is of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was expelled from his position in the Catholic Church when the congregation determined that he had abused minors and adults.

The allegations against McCarrick were very similar to those faced by Hart.

"The defenders of canon law point to the punishment against former Cardinal McCarrick as if it were proof that the system works. But

for every McCarrick there are five Harts

: the bishops who do keep their titles and their pensions despite multiple complaints," Anne reproached Barrett Doyle, part of the group.

[Pope Francis acknowledges that there has been a historical abuse of priests and bishops towards nuns]

That organization has identified more than 100 bishops who have been publicly denounced for sexual abuse around the world, and notes that there are probably many more who have been accused only within the Catholic Church.

Theodore McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington DC, met with Pope John Paul II in February 2001. McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood in 2019 after a two-year investigation. AP /

Historically, when a clergyman is reported within the Catholic system, they are usually only sent to another diocese or to "rehabilitation" programs, while survivors of abuse end up feeling that signing a confidential court agreement is the only way to obtain justice.


Dioceses seek to quietly deal with the allegations

: they do not notify the parishes or schools where the alleged abusers worked, they enter into confidentiality agreements and use what they call 'pastoral' approaches," says

"As a result, many survivors do not even report criminally or civilly," the organization adds.

Biegler, the current bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, indicated that the decision coming out of the Vatican does not mean that Hart is innocent, but that canon law experts believe that there was insufficient evidence.

"I want survivors to know that I support and believe in them," Biegler said in a statement.

But he himself acknowledged: "

This announcement will not be a closure

for the survivors, their families, Bishop Hart and all those affected."

With information from AP

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-01-26

You may like

Life/Entertain 2021-05-03T20:49:22.922Z

Trends 24h


© Communities 2019 - Privacy