The U.S. bishops under abuse or cover-up investigations

News: Vos Estis Lux Mundi

The Archdiocese of Kansas City announced Monday that Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City, Kansas has been accused of committing sexual abuse against a minor.

The bishop has denied the allegation, which is being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City has been charged with investigating the allegation on behalf of the Vatican, under the protocols of Vos estis lux mundi, a 2019 policy from Pope Francis on allegations against bishops.

Unlike some bishops under investigation for sexual abuse, Brungardt, 62, has taken a leave of absence from the Dodge City diocese while the matter is investigated.

Brungardt is one of at least 10 bishops to come under publicly-known investigation in the U.S. since 2018. Here are the others:


Abuse and sexual misconduct


Theodore McCarrick, laicized former member of the College of Cardinals

Accused in June 2018 of sexually abusing a minor, subsequently accused of serially sexually abusing other minors, seminarians, and young priests. After a penal process undertaken by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, McCarrick was laicized in February 2019.

Bishop Michael Bransfield, retired Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia

When Bransfield retired as diocesan bishop in September 2018, Pope Francis ordered an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against the bishop, along with financial misconduct. The investigation, undertaken by Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori, found considerable evidence the bishop had serially sexually harassed seminarians and young priests for decades, and sexually coerced or assaulted some of them, along with other adults.

Bransfield was also found to have abused alcohol and prescription medication, and spent hundreds of thousands of diocesan funds on personal expenses and gifts. The bishop is prohibited from public sacramental ministry and is directed to make financial restitution to his former diocese. The bishop was also ordered to apologize, but he has not taken personal responsibility for his misconduct, and denies any sexual misconduct.

Bishop Joseph Hart, retired Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming

After facing numerous allegations of sexual abuse of minors in 1989, 1992, 2002 and 2004, a canonical penal process against Hart was ordered by Pope Francis in June 2019. In January 2021, it was announced that Hart had been canonically tried, but not convicted, for several allegations of sexually abusing minors. At least one allegation reported to the Vatican has not yet been tried. While Hart, 89, remains a cleric, he is restricted from nearly all public ministry and contact with minors.

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Bishop Robert Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina

In August 2019, the Vatican authorized a preliminary investigation into allegations that Guglielmone, 75, committed acts of sexual abuse while he was a priest in the New York in the 1970s. The bishop denied the allegations. He remained in ministry during a Vatican investigation, which concluded in December 2020 with the conclusion that the allegations against Guglielmone lacked the “semblance of truth.”

The bishop, who submitted his resignation to Pope Francis when he reached the retirement age of 75 in December, remains in ministry and the pope has not accepted his resignation. He is being sued civilly for alleged abuse in New York state.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn

In January 2020, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was directed by the Vatican to conduct an investigation into allegations that DiMarzio, 76, sexually abused a male student, a minor, in the 1970s. DiMarzio has since been accused of sexually abusing another boy in 1979 and 1980. The bishop says he is innocent of any allegations of sexual abuse, and has remained in office during the now year-long investigation into the charges. 

This investigation is still ongoing.


Administrative negligence or cover-up

Bishop Richard Malone, now retired Bishop of Buffalo, New York

Beginning in August 2018, Malone, 74, was accused of covering-up allegations of abuse or misconduct against some Buffalo priests, and of allowing priests accused of abuse or misconduct to remain in ministry. Malone eventually acknowledged some mistakes, but said he intended to remain in leadership of the Buffalo diocese.  In October 2019, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops ordered an investigation into the leadership of Bishop Malone; the investigation was undertaken by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. Malone resigned from office in December 2019.

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Bishop Joseph Binzer, former auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati

In August 2019, it emerged that Binzer, 65, had failed to notify Cincinnati’s archbishop of allegations and complaints made in 2013 and 2015 against a priest, Fr. Geoff Drew, who was arrested in 2019 for nine counts of sexually abusing a minor. Binzer’s failure to alert other archdiocese officials of allegations against Drew allowed him to be transferred in 2018 to a parish where he is alleged to have engaged in grooming behavior with teenagers. After a Vatican-ordered investigation, Binzer resigned as auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati in April 2020.



Bishop Michael Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota

In September 2019, Hoeppner, 71, became the first bishop in the world to be investigated under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, new protocols from Pope Francis addressing coverups and other misconduct from bishops. The investigation centers around allegations that Hoeppner coerced a diaconal candidate to recant an allegation that he had been abused as a minor by a priest, and is thought to have broadened to include other allegations of negligence by Hoeppner, some of which the bishop discussed at length in depositions that have been released to the public.

This investigation is still ongoing.

Hoeppner has been under investigation for 16 months, but it is believed his case may soon reach the stage of a Vatican decision on the future of his ministry.

Bishop Oscar Cantu, Bishop of San Jose

In October 2020, the Congregation for Bishops ordered an investigation into allegations concerning Cantu’s handling of abuse and misconduct cases in his former diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The investigation is conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux mundi, and is being overseen by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. Cantu, 53, has pledged to cooperate fully with investigators.

This investigation is still ongoing.