Catholics Clash during Discussions of Bishop

By Kate Perry
Troy Record [Albany NY]
February 23, 2004

ALBANY - A rift among local Catholics precipitated by the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and recent allegations against Bishop Howard Hubbard was seen in living color Sunday night as two women screamed in each other's face.

The shouting match took place at the Crowne Plaza hotel, where The Roman Catholic Faithful, a non-profit organization that claims it promotes orthodox Catholic teaching and fights corruption in the church's hierarchy, held a meeting to discuss its investigation into the Albany Diocese.

More than 100 people attended, many hoping to get some answers about the diocese's crisis, including the newest development, the Feb. 15 apparent suicide of Rev. John Minkler, a Watervliet priest who some say wrote a letter in 1995 detailing homosexual behavior and liturgical abuses in the diocese.

Minkler's death came one day after a meeting with diocese officials at which he signed a statement saying he did not author the letter. Stephen Brady president of RCF, and Paul Likoudis, editor of The Wanderer, a Catholic watchdog publication, who were the speakers at Sunday's event, both said Minkler had called them just prior to his death distressed about the situation with Hubbard.

Brady, who along with Likoudis brought the letter into the public light without Minkler's name, said Sunday that he was very sorry for Minkler's death and the stress that he underwent because of the letter's eventual publication, but Brady steadfastly denied that he ever revealed Minkler's name.

In recent days, some have implied that the bishop and the diocese played a role in Minkler's death, either directly or by driving him to suicide. Hubbard's supporters maintain that the allegation is ridiculous.

The most heated moments however, occurred when supporters of Hubbard spoke up. They gathered outside the conference room and periodically interrupted those speaking to express their disagreement or just to make statements of their own, which had the audience shouting "move on," "get a life," and "leave."

But it was when one of the bishop's supporters approached the microphone during the question-and-answer period that the most intense disagreement occurred. The crowd began shouting over her and asking her to leave and another woman yelled in her face to "go away" as the two struggled for control of the microphone.

The incident occurred after Likoudis spoke about his ties with Minkler, with whom he wrote the 10-part series "Agony in Albany," and Brady detailed occurrences of sexual misconduct of clergy around the country, just briefly touching on the situation in Albany.

Brady specifically targeted bishops' activities, their lenience on homosexuality and their liturgical abuses, but was careful not to lay guilt on Hubbard. Still, his implications were strong.

"You can't do the things that some of these bishops do and believe in hell," he said, later adding, "I'm only doing this to show that bishops have no credibility. None."

Carol Keinath, a resident of Coxsackie and a Hubbard supporter, and another supporter who asked not to be named said they were shocked that anyone would turn out for such an event, which to them seemed largely negative and offered no real solutions for the problems that now face the diocese.

They agreed that the allegations of priests sexually abusing teenagers and children over past decades and of rampant homosexuality in the diocese are troubling, but Keinath said the diocese is handling the situation well at this point. The other supporter, who claims to have been sexually abused by a priest at the age of 20, said the diocese has done what it can and that the function on Sunday was simply dwelling on the past.

"The church today is addressing those issues," she said. "The victims' advocate is a positive thing and the bishop is very supportive of the victims. The victims are always his first focus."

As for the most recent allegations made by Andrew Zalay - who links the suicide of his brother in 1978 to an alleged sexual relationship between the deceased and the bishop, and Anthony Bonneau, a man who claims that as a teenage prostitute, Hubbard was one of his clients - neither women believes them.

"I have a high regard for (Hubbard) as a person. I see what he has done for so many people over the years and I know he is a person of God," Keinath said.

The unfailing support of the two women for Hubbard met sharp contrast from fellow Catholics who had their minds made up well before the meeting on Sunday.

John Carswell, an Albany resident, said he wants Hubbard to resign based on the apparent cover-up of sexual abuse that happened in the diocese before the most recent allegations even surfaced.

Albany resident Cynthia Herubin also said that Hubbard should step down, but was disappointed that more about the situation in Albany wasn't revealed at the meeting.

"I don't think it answered the questions I still have one way or another," she said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.