“The Scripture readings and the liturgy itself proclaim the mystery of God’s love and the mystery of Jesus’ victorious death and resurrection — mysteries that apply to the deceased and to our lives. At death, we remember that final healing, reconciliation, and judgment rests in the hands of God. We entrust the brokenness of humanity to the Lord, who alone has the power to restore us. So, during this time of anguish, my message to those survivors remains: I support and believe you and will continue to work and pray for healing for all involved in this profoundly painful time.”
Biegler expressed his condolences to Hart’s family. He also said the Diocese of Cheyenne is committed to protecting the most vulnerable and accompanying those who have been harmed.
“I invite everyone to join me in prayer for healing and the restoration of the community and for all those affected by Bishop Hart’s death, especially the survivors. The path toward healing is lifelong, and although his death will not bring closure for survivors, their family members, and others impacted, we should continue to work and pray without ceasing for the healing of everyone affected by these distressing matters,” the bishop concluded.
Hart was accused of sexually abusing children in the mid-1970s, and numerous accusations were levied against him in 1989, 1992, 2002, and 2004. Hart was additionally accused of solicitation in confession. In 2020, civil prosecutors declined to press charges against Hart due to insufficient evidence of the claims of abuse.
The Diocese of Cheyenne began in January 2018 its own investigation into Hart’s alleged abuse. The diocese later 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 the Vatican for a final decision in the canonical process, which began in 2019.
According to the diocese, the accusations against Hart involved 11 males and one female. The CDF found that two of the accusers did not meet the standard for abuse of a minor as the alleged victims were 16 and 17 at a time when the Code of Canon Law considered anyone under the age of 16 to be a minor. That age is now 18.