Abuses Hard to Prevent, Ex-Bishop Says
Albany-- Rev. Broderick Believes Diocese Priesthood Was Too Large to Monitor, Stands by Hubbard

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
May 14, 2004

The former bishop of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese insists there was little he could have done to prevent the clergy sexual abuse that plagued the diocese in the 1970s and continues to haunt church leaders today.

"In those days, we had 550 priests," the Rev. Edwin B. Broderick said. "What are you going to do, go down to every rectory at midnight and check to see if the priests are alone? Or if there are little boys around? They all take a vow of celibacy."

The remarks by Broderick, who headed the diocese for eight years before Bishop Howard Hubbard took over in 1977, are his most extensive since the scandal erupted in 2002. Nearly 80 percent of the abuse documented by the diocese dates from the 1970s or earlier, with some cases occurring on Broderick's watch even though came to light long after he left Albany.

Nineteen priests have been removed from the ministry since 1950 and nearly $4 million has been paid out in settlements and services to victims.

The 87-year-old Broderick, who is retired and living on Park Avenue in New York City, spoke to a Times Union reporter after he presided over confirmation ceremonies Wednesday at Holy Spirit Church in East Greenbush. Broderick still travels north several times a year to assist Hubbard in dispensing sacraments to the 400,000-member diocese.

He said he was troubled by the current allegations against Hubbard and vowed to stand by the man who succeeded him when he left to head up Catholic Relief Services, a world charity outreach organization.

"I had lunch with him last week and I said, 'Look, I'm with you, if there's something I can do,' " Broderick said. "He is the last person I'd ever think would have such allegations raised."

Hubbard was accused in early February of engaging in sexual relationships in the 1970s with a young man who later killed himself and another who said he accepted money for sex in Washington Park. Then came the Feb. 15 suicide of the Rev. John Minkler, after being linked to a 1995 letter to then-New York Archbishop John O'Connor accusing Hubbard of homosexual behavior and theological transgressions.

The former VA chaplain, who was ordained by Broderick in 1972, died two days after he signed a statement for the Albany Diocese disavowing authorship of the letter.

On Thursday, Hubbard said that Broderick served the Albany diocese with great vision and zeal at a time when the Second Vatican Council transformed the church.

"He was sensitive to the difficulty that some clerics, religious and laity had in understanding it," Hubbard said.

Originally from the Bronx, Broderick, the son of County Clare immigrants was ordained, and held pastoral, teaching and administrative positions in the New York Archdiocese before moving to Albany as its eighth bishop in 1969.

At Wednesday night's confirmation, many of the 44 teenagers and their families seemed impressed at the sight of the lanky priest in full-dress red- and cream-colored cope, vestments and tall peaked miter.

With an imposing crosier, or bishop's staff, planted firmly in his right hand, Broderick slowly led five other concelebrating priests, and several hundred parishioners, down the steep driveway to the adjoining school hall.

A priest for 62 years, Broderick lived up to his reputation as a globe-trotting urbanite with an abundance of Irish charm as he happily shook hands, clapped backs and posed with panache for dozens of pictures in the extreme heat.

He has been named in society columns around the country for the celebrity marriages he's performed and the high-society soirees he's attended. In the 1950s, Broderick produced the weekly Christian television program "Life is Worth Living," featuring Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

While he enjoyed the life of a bishop, he admitted that he got greater fulfillment with Catholic Relief Services, which he headed until 1982.

"I really loved that job," Broderick said. "You're doing something instead of being under house arrest."

Picking from a plate of grapes and melon, Broderick said he had no regrets about his tenure in Albany, even as he acknowledged the scandal could taint his legacy.

Raising his hands, he said, "It's a terrible thing. ... But, you try to do the best you can with what you have as talents."


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