Hubbard Award Angers Victims
Albany -- Children's Center Rejects Aretakis' Objection to Honor That Is to Be Bestowed on Bishop

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
March 25, 2004

A Catholic agency's plan to honor Bishop Howard Hubbard as its "Humanitarian of the Year" has angered some victims of clergy sex abuse, who called the award inappropriate because of the allegations swirling around the leader of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.

Hubbard is scheduled to receive the award Sunday from the Sunnyside Center in Troy, which helps hundreds of at-risk children. Officials said Hubbard is being honored for his long-standing commitment to the center's children, which goes back to the days he attended the summer day camp himself through an outreach program of St. Patrick's Parish.

The decision to honor Hubbard comes just weeks after he was publicly accused of engaging in homosexual relationships and paid for sex from a teenage male prostitute in the 1970s in Albany's Washington Park. Hubbard has denied the allegations and the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board has hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate.

The award also comes as the diocese is still reeling from its handling of the sex abuse scandal that has resulted in 19 priests being removed from ministry since 1950. The diocese has acknowledged it has paid out more than $3 million to abuse victims.

"Here he is, receiving an award for reaching out to those in need," said Edmund Zampier, 62, of Troy, who said he was sexually abused in the rectory of Troy's Our Lady of Victory Church between the ages of 15 and 22 by two parish priests who are now dead.

"(Hubbard) hasn't reached out to me," Zampier said. "That's what distresses me."

Attorney John Aretakis, who said he represents dozens of victims of clergy sex abuse, contacted Sunnyside's director, Sister Claudette Harris, last week and asked her to have the 25 members of the center's board reconsider honoring Hubbard.

Aretakis also released a letter signed by Zampier and another client, Timothy Zawicki, 44, of Schenectady -- dated Wednesday -- that said they and other victims found the Hubbard honor to be "insensitive."

On Wednesday, the volunteer president of the center's board of directors, Phyllis Raymond, sent a letter to Aretakis saying the board would not change its mind.

"Although you have made all kinds of allegations against Bishop Hubbard, we do not believe there is a shred of evidence your claims are true," she said. "What we know is true is Bishop Hubbard is widely admired in the Capital Region for his 40 years of advocacy" for children and others.

Raymond wrote she was concerned Aretakis could disrupt the event, but the center, which is run by Catholic Charities, would not bow to threats.

She also called on Aretakis to send a "generous" donation "to show you remember that children come first."

The diocese released a terse statement.

"John Aretakis has no credibility," it said. "He lost every court case he brought against the Albany Diocese because he had no facts to back his false claims. He has been threatened with contempt of court. He is the subject currently, by his own admission, of multiple ethics investigations. This is not a man whose public statements deserve serious consideration."

The Sunnyside Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual who has been instrumental in human service achievements for the welfare of the children of Sunnyside Center.

In naming Hubbard, Sunnyside noted his connection to the city organization as well as broader public service efforts including having co-founded Hope House Drug Rehabilitation Facility in Albany and served as president of the Urban League of Albany.

Previous winners were Jack Byrne of Mechanicville and Warren and Donald Fane of Troy.