Albany Diocese's Offer to Help Had Condition
Albany -- Tape Reveals Bishop Telling Sex Abuse Victim Church Could Better Help Him If He Didn't Have an Attorney Involved
By Andrew Tilghman
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
February 23, 2003
Bishop Howard Hubbard in a meeting last spring told a man molested by priests in the 1970s that church officials could provide more support and investigate his allegations more thoroughly if he did not have an attorney.
Hubbard met often in 2002 with the victim -- now a 40-year-old married father -- who had hired an attorney and complained to the Albany Catholic diocese a decade ago about being abused by priests whose names he never knew. The man contacted the church again last year -- this time without a lawyer -- seeking more information about the Rev. David Bentley and others who molested him.
"Back then you were represented by an attorney and I had -- there were certain ethical things that I was not able to do that I can do now because you are not represented by an attorney," Hubbard said, according to a recording of the June 2002 meeting obtained by the Times Union.
The recording, taped and provided by the victim, who asked that only his first name, Curtis, be used, offers insight into the conversations between Hubbard and Curtis that are now at the center of a lawsuit. Curtis claims Hubbard and other church officials tried to manipulate him and prevent him from hiring an attorney last year.
In October, Curtis hired a new lawyer, John Aretakis, after he and Hubbard had a falling out over the bishop's unwillingness to help him identify all the priests who abused him.
"What about these other priests that I have come to you with, bishop?" the man asked. "I came to you in '93 and '94, bishop, with others and I felt it was just pushed under the rug," the man said.
"I hear what you're saying," the bishop responded, "You said something about others, but you didn't indicate who they were. I had no point to act on that."
Hubbard met face-to-face with Curtis more than a dozen times last year when Curtis had no legal counsel. During those meetings -- often attended by a church therapist, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin -- the bishop helped Curtis recall times, dates and locations of his abuse, using that information to identify other men who had molested him as a teenager, according to Curtis.
On the tape, Hubbard said he initially had been unable to speak extensively with Curtis and conduct the same kind of investigation because Curtis had an attorney. He said in that situation he could be accused of "tampering with the client."
Last April, the bishop recalled Bentley from his post in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and removed him from active ministry, citing credible allegations of sexual abuse. Hubbard has said he knew nothing about Bentley's problem with young boys until 1986, when someone outside the diocese contacted him about a child the priest had allegedly molested.
At their June meeting, Hubbard stammered when Curtis asked him about how many other children Bentley had molested.
"In a sense he (Bentley) told me that there were seven victims," Hubbard said.
"So you knew that, seven victims?" Curtis said abruptly. "Well, whatever, he had a number of victims. He told me when other people came forward like, uhh, or whatever his name is, that, that he never victimized him. So I, I, I didn't say seven definitely," Hubbard said.
The Albany diocese paid Curtis $150,000 in a confidential settlement agreement in 1994 and quietly paid him another $75,000 this past May. Then in August, Curtis received $150,000 more. He filed a lawsuit in December.
His lawsuit echoes complaints heard nationwide that some dioceses have engaged in unethical therapy methods to help to protect the church from potential lawsuits. Critics believe church therapy programs involve conflicts of interest because the financial concerns of a diocese are sometimes at odds with the needs of the victims they counsel.
Curtis said the tape of the June meeting was made with a micro cassette recorder in his shirt pocket. He said Hubbard was aware of the tape and their conversation includes one reference to the recording of a previous meeting. Curtis has said that he recorded the sessions as a way of holding church officials accountable for the statements they made.
Last week, the Times Union reported excerpts from an extraordinary face-to-face confrontation between Curtis and Bentley at the diocesan headquarters in May 2002, which church officials arranged and Hubbard attended.
The diocese issued a statement on Friday that said: "The tapes that the Times Union is reporting on have not been authenticated or validated as to their accuracy, completeness, context or sequence."
Curtis' attorney declined comment, citing a warning by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi on Feb. 10 about making public statements that might prejudice potential jurors in a lawsuit.
The 10-minute recording of the June meeting offers a glimpse of how Hubbard handled one victim of sexual abuse, meeting face-to-face and allowing him to share his stories, anger and frustration.
Hubbard met with Curtis just days before he went to Dallas, where he voiced his opposition to the policy of zero-tolerance for pedophile priests that would be adopted there by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Think of what I went through -- and I know you do, bishop, I know you do," Curtis said. "But I want you to take that to Dallas, take that to Dallas, take that with you and understand."
Curtis wondered whether Hubbard would remain bishop after the Dallas conference and Hubbard agreed. "Maybe, they might remove me," he said quietly.
During the meeting with Curtis and Hubbard, the church therapist, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, said little while the bishop and her patient talked.
At one point, Curtis lashed out at the bishop for allowing Bentley to remain in active ministry despite the allegations of sexual abuse.
"You're going to go before God, bishop. And you're going to answer for this guy. For keeping him. All of you guys are going to answer for that, bishop," Curtis said.
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