It's All a Lot of Senseless Game Playing

By James V. Franco
The Record's Capitol Bureau
May 20, 2004

It seems there is a bit of a chess game going on between Mary Jo White and John Aretakis, and it is Aretakis' move.

Aretakis' two clients, who accused Bishop Howard Hubbard of homosexual activity some 30 years ago, have so far refused to cooperate with White's investigation of those allegations.

Earlier this week, White told the world they are not cooperating, and publicly invited them to talk.

Aretakis fired back, saying that since White is paid by the diocese, she is working for Hubbard rather than working autonomously to find the truth.

This is a valid argument, except the former U.S. attorney has a stellar reputation. Aretakis also made a legal argument regarding attorney-client privilege, but given his track record in court, my money is on White's interpretation.

Furthermore, Aretakis told the press that before his clients agree to be interviewed, he wanted to see the letter of engagement between White and the diocese, which White made available Wednesday. It contained nothing remotely explosive.

And he wanted the interviews done in public, which White said in a letter she would do, albeit reluctantly.

Aretakis said he would sit down with White, in public, and then decide whether his clients will cooperate.

It is all a lot of unnecessary game playing.

The allegations against Hubbard were made by Andrew Zalay, brother of 25-year-old Thomas Zalay who claimed in a 1978 suicide note he had a sexual liaison with Hubbard and killed himself because of it, and Anthony Bonneau, who claims he serviced Hubbard while working as a prostitute in Washington Park.

My question is, why not cooperate? Are they afraid White will not incorporate their stories and/or evidence into her report? Are they afraid she will distort the stories and/or evidence? There are no lawsuits filed. There are no crimes alleged. So, why not?

Maybe they don't have any solid evidence outside of a suicide letter written by a man with a history of mental health problems, and a 40-year-old man who is recalling Hubbard some 30 years ago while working as a teenage prostitute.

White said she will "complete the investigation with or without the cooperation of Mr. Aretakis." But I think it will be incomplete if the people who made the accusations are not included. And that is a shame.

Allegations of Hubbard's homosexual activities were leveled by Aretakis and his clients with no real proof to back them up. Hubbard denied them. Now it stands as a classic case of "he said, she said," which is not fair to anyone.

Further fueling the fire, and is part of White's investigation, is the letter purportedly penned by the late Rev. John Minkler, which accused Hubbard of allowing homosexual sex to run rampant among priests in the diocese. Minkler committed suicide shortly after the letter was made public by Aretakis.

Aretakis said he did not appreciate White putting out a press statement asking him to be interviewed. He does not like to be "sandbagged," he said, and accused White of being "disingenuous."

This comes from a man who for the last three years has issued press releases and held press conferences blasting the diocese and Hubbard. I have personally seen him intentionally try to sandbag the diocese more times than I care to remember.

White and her team did overstep their bounds when they tried to interview a friend of Minkler's at the Stratton Veterans Affairs Hospital. She apologized and moved on with the investigation.

I remain unconvinced the investigation, regardless of its outcome, will change people's opinion of Hubbard, the abuse scandal or the church. Minds were made up long ago.

But White will give us the closest thing to the complete truth about the bishop we will ever get, and the three men who started the whole thing have the responsibility to help her - and us - get there.

What is most bizarre about this scandal is it has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of children by priests, which is a profoundly more serious matter.


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