CHEYENNE — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne released the names of 10 priests and one bishop they said served in Wyoming and faced substantiated accusations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults dating back to 1950. The list was released Wednesday in the Diocese newsletter, the Wyoming Catholic Register, and was accompanied by a long letter from Bishop Steven Biegler, who said the names of the men “represents a betrayal of trust, a violation of the innocent and a human tragedy.”
In his letter, Biegler called the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church an “appalling sin and a reprehensible crime,” and the lack of a response from officials in the church across the world an absolute breach of their role as the mediators between God and his worshipers.
“On behalf of the church, I apologize to each victim, not only for the misconduct of those who committed sexual abuse, but also for the failure of any Church leader who did not take appropriate action after having received a report of an allegation,” Biegler said. “Finally, I pledge to do all that we can to assist with your healing and to learn from errors in our past.”
The list of abusers
The Diocese outlined its findings on incidents that occurred between 1957 and 2003 with 29 minors and one vulnerable adult reporting they had been victims of clerical sexual abuse.
The list included what Biegler said were “substantiated allegations” which had to meet one of several criteria, including collaborating testimony or evidence, a pattern of accusations or a victim’s unchanging testimony throughout interviews.
“A substantiated allegation is one which has been determined to have reasonable probability or even certainty based on a convincing level of proof,” he said. “When these elements are absent, the allegation is unconfirmed and lacks substantiation.”
Biegler said the names on the list were the result of an investigation of 303 files going back to 1950 of Catholic clergy of the Diocese of Cheyenne, including five bishops, 253 priests and 45 deacons. The Diocese had contracted with the law firm Nussbaum Speir, which has worked with other Catholic dioceses on this issue, to provide an impartial assessment of the cases.
One of those named in the letter is Bishop-Emeritus Joseph Hart, who worked in Cheyenne from 1976-2001.
Last August, the Diocese announced it had received credible evidence that Hart had abused at least two young boys while in Cheyenne. Two more survivors came forward after that announcement with credible accounts according to the Diocese.
The Cheyenne Police Department also launched an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse.
Hart has repeatedly denied the accusations, often citing a 2002 investigation by the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office that found “no evidence” of such abuse.
By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange