Vigil to Protest Award

By Robert Cristo
The Record [Troy NY]
March 27, 2004

TROY - Members of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics will gather with victims of alleged clergy sex abuse cases Sunday to protest Bishop Howard Hubbard receiving a "Humanitarian of the Year" award.

Hubbard, leader of the Albany Diocese, will be honored by the Sunnyside Center in Troy for his many years of commitment to helping provide financial support for the organization's children's programs.

The event will be held at the Sunset Banquet House on Fifth Avenue beginning at 11 a.m.

Concerned Catholics' members say they are "troubled" by the decision to honor Hubbard only a short time after he publicly stated that, "We bishops failed to address properly" the sexual abuse problem within the church.

Only recently has the diocese admitted to having 19 priests removed from the ministry since 1950 on various sexual misconduct charges and made public that it paid out millions of dollars to abuse victims.

The Albany Diocese was one of the first to begin attacking the clergy sexual abuse problem in 2002, when Hubbard returned from the bishop's conference in Dallas, Texas, and publicly removed six priests known to have problematic pasts.

The timing of the award comes just weeks after he denied accusations of engaging in homosexual relationships himself.

No proof of those allegations have been found, but the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board has hired former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to launch an investigation that will cost the diocese more than $700 an hour.

"It is offensive to the victims of priestly abuse for an award of this kind to be bestowed on the individual responsible for protecting their attackers," said CCCAD President Phillip Kiernan in a statement.

"Bishop Hubbard and his diocesan staff continued to misreport and under-report the dimensions of the abuse scandal that occurred under his pastoral watch," he added.

Sunnyside Center President Phyllis Raymond sent out a statement to attorney John Aretakis, who represents 85 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse cases, saying she has "no intention" of canceling the fund-raising event or "reversing our decision" to honor Hubbard.

Raymond contends that Hubbard is "widely admired" in the Capital District for his 40 years of advocacy for children, the aged, the infirmed, the disabled, the addicted, minority groups and many others who needed him.

Sunnyside Center provides after-school services for nearly 1,000 at-risk children and families throughout the region.

As a sign of solidarity with the victims of abuse, the CCCAD will conduct a prayer vigil across from the Sunset Banquet House from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Diocese officials say it shouldn't be up to Hubbard to defend receiving the award, since the honor is being given to him by Sunnyside representatives, who feel he deserves it.