The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation has exonerated retired Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne over numerous accusations of the sexual abuse of minors, but issued a canonical rebuke.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) said that the bishop had acted irresponsibly as a priest and upheld restrictions placed on him in 2018.
In January 2018, the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, began an investigation into claims of abuse by Hart, its retired bishop. Hart, who is now 89 years old, led the diocese from 1978 until his 70th birthday in 2001.
The diocese said that its investigative team “were convinced that we had sufficient evidence to conclude with moral certainty that the six accusations against Bishop Hart are credible” and passed the case to Rome for a final decision in the canonical process.
The diocese announced on Jan. 25 that the CDF had concluded that Hart was “exonerated of seven accusations, and five other accusations could not be proven with moral certitude.”
…Despite clearing Hart of the charges, the CDF issued a canonical rebuke to the retired bishop.
The Vatican congregation rebuked Hart “for his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips, which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful.’”