Protesters Voice Opposition to Hubbard's Award

By Kate Perry
Troy Record [Troy NY]
Downloaded March 29, 2004

TROY - Inside the Sunset Banquet House Sunday afternoon, politicians, local residents and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany staff members praised Bishop Howard Hubbard, naming him the Sunnyside Center for Children's 2004 Humanitarian Award recipient.

Outside the building, the tenor was quite different.

When Hubbard arrived for the ceremony at around 11:30 a.m., he had to pass a group of about two dozen protestors, many from the Coalition of Concerned Catholics in the Albany Diocese, saying the rosary and hoisting signs denouncing the center's choice of Hubbard as its humanitarian of the year.

In light of the church's pedophiliac sex scandal and Hubbard's leadership during it, the protestors, some of whom claimed to be victims of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the diocese, viewed the award as salt in the wound.

Sister Maureen Joyce, director of the Catholic Charities Foundation for the diocese, said Hubbard was chosen for the award almost a year ago by the board of directors for his years of support to the center and its mission to provide programs to at-risk youths. His compassion and advocacy for the poor, sick, elderly, disabled and downtrodden of all faiths were also cited by others at the event as good reason for the award.

Joyce said the decision to award Hubbard was made well before two men came forward and claimed the bishop had homosexual relationships with them in the 1970s, and that those accusations had no bearing on the choice.

"It was never reconsidered," she said. "It's not like we don't know Bishop Hubbard, and we know what he has done for children in the past."

Mark Lyman, a Stillwater resident who said he was a victim of priest sexual abuse in the Albany and Boston dioceses from the ages of 13 to 18, said the allegations against Hubbard were not what brought him to protest Sunday. He said we was on hand to support victims in the face of what he saw as a "public relations campaign" attempting to drum up some positive coverage about the bishop to detract from the scandal.

Lyman and other protestors also alluded to the fact that the bishop influenced his selection for the award.

"This is his ceremony. He's the keeper of the house. He pays the bills," Lyman said. "That's all this is about."

Without ever making a direct statement about the controversy, area politicians such as Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino, state Assemblyman Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, former Green Island Mayor Jack McNulty, on behalf of his son U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, Troy City Councilman Jack Mahoney, D-District 2, on behalf of Mayor Harry Tutunjian, and a spokesperson for state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, all congratulated Hubbard and expressed their support for him.

"We are very proud of the work that you do and very grateful ... " said Jimino. "Bishop, we support you and you are in our prayers."

When Hubbard received the award, he apologized for the controversy surrounding the choice and said he hoped it wouldn't detract from the great work the Sunnyside Center does. The brunch, in its third year, is also a major fund-raiser for the center, which provides daycare, after-school and summer programs for local children.

With that in mind, and despite the good turnout, Joyce was even more disheartened by what was going on just outside the banquet hall.

"It makes me very sad that they are taking a political agenda which the bishop has addressed and the diocese has addressed and they are trying to derail fund-raising," she said, adding that if the well-being of children was the concern of protestors, they should have been supporting the event.

Phillip Kiernan, a spokesperson for CCCAD, said in a release that it was strictly the choice of the award's recipient, not the center, with which protesters took issue.

"While the CCCAD admires the work of the Sunnyside Center, its selection of Bishop Hubbard for this award is, at best, insensitive to those who have suffered under Hubbard's regime," he said.