2 Catholic Bishops Facing Abuse Charges

Associated Press, carried in The Post and Courier [United States]
Downloaded March 5, 2004

A Massachusetts prosecutor said Thursday he will pursue sex-abuse charges against a retired Roman Catholic bishop, while in New York state another bishop is attempting to save his career by waging an unusually public campaign against sexual misconduct allegations.

Springfield, Mass., Bishop Thomas Dupre is accused of plying two altar boys with alcohol and molesting them while he was a parish priest in the 1970s.

If a grand jury indicts him, Dupre would become the first bishop charged in the sex scandal that engulfed the Roman Catholic church two years ago.

There have been at least a dozen grand jury investigations involving how bishops dealt with allegations of abuse, and four bishops have resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Dupre, 70, stepped down Feb. 11, citing health reasons. His retirement came a day after The Republican newspaper of Springfield reported the abuse allegations.

Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said the statute of limitations on the alleged abuse has likely expired, but because Dupre allegedly tried to conceal the abuse as recently as last year, it still may be possible to charge him with molesting the boys.

Dupre served nine years as head of the diocese in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston. Since his retirement, he has been at St. Luke Institute, a private Catholic psychiatric hospital in Maryland that treats priests with emotional, behavioral and psychological problems.

In New York, Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard is fighting charges that he was involved in two gay relationships, one of which led to a man's suicide 30 years ago, and that he sheltered gay priests from abuse accusations.

Hubbard vigorously denies the charges and insists he has kept his vow of celibacy. He has even persuaded the diocese council to hire a former federal prosecutor to do an independent investigation.

He insists the charges aren't just aimed at him.

"It is not just an attack upon myself. It is an agenda about the direction the church is moving," Hubbard said. Some conservatives want to "go back to the church of before the second Vatican Council" and see him as a liberal target.

"I'm not going to allow myself to be used that way," he said.

Hubbard has been battling to save his reputation in news conferences, prayer meetings and no-holds-barred radio and television interviews.

Meanwhile, the national conservative group Roman Catholic Faithful has dogged Hubbard for years as a liberal vanguard and is calling the bishop's aggressive campaign a sham.

The Albany County district attorney refused Hubbard's request to investigate the allegations of the two gay relationships, saying they weren't crimes. So Hubbard urged the diocese to find someone beyond reproach who would. Former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White has begun that investigation, which is expected take several more weeks.

Hubbard insists he doesn't want to silence critics but to refute their accusations for the sake of his reputation, the priesthood and the church.

"There will always be a taint," he said. "I will always be associated with this."


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