Bishop Joseph H. Hart
Although a diocesan review board determined that at least six child sex abuse allegations against former Bishop Joseph H. Hart were credible, the Vatican has, once again, put its concern for its own reputation ahead of concern for the survivors the disgraced former bishop harmed. On Monday, January 25, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith overturned the review board’s decision, clearing Bishop Hart of seven allegations of abuse, and ruling that five other allegations couldn’t be verified “with moral certitude.” Furthermore, the Vatican dismissed two additional cases that involved Bishop Hart’s alleged sexual abuse of 16- and 17-year-old boys because the Church did not recognize the boys as minors at the time of the alleged abuse.
Here, the Vatican has done more than look the other way on sexual abuse by one of its own, it has looked directly into a mounting stack of allegations, six of them deemed credible by Diocesan officials and disregarded them outright. Their action here is further proof of the hypocrisy peeking out from behind the Church’s long-maintained curtain of secrecy and concealment. Instead of making a decision based on the values publicly and repeatedly espoused by the Pope and other Church leaders—integrity, transparency, repentance and compassion—the Vatican has again chosen self-preservation when asked to put those words into action.