Hubbard Says He'll Stand His Ground:
Bishop Stresses That He Has "No Intention" of Leaving and That He's Pleased with Conference Results

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
June 22, 2004

Bishop Howard Hubbard responded Monday to calls that he step down from leadership of his 400,000-member Roman Catholic diocese, saying he has "no intention of doing that."

"I intend to stay the course," Hubbard said in a telephone interview Monday evening.

Hubbard's statements came on the heels of a small demonstration at the Capitol last week by members of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics, who waved signs telling the cleric to go. The Illinois-based Roman Catholic Faithful and the victims group SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have also said he should resign.

Hubbard faces allegations of inappropriate homosexual behavior close to 30 years ago, and has been criticized by abuse victims who say he should step down for shielding abusers for years.

The bishop was fresh from a six-day, closed-door conference in Denver with fellow clerics from around the country. He said he came away pleased that the U.S. Conference of Bishops approved a second audit of church compliance with sexual abuse policies.

Hubbard, 65, traveled to Colorado for what was supposed to be a private spiritual retreat that comes along once every five years for the national church leaders.

But much of the first day and a half was devoted to the sex-abuse issue after some bishops, including New York Cardinal Edward Egan, pushed to put off a decision on the audit until the fall.

That infuriated advocates of victims of clergy sexual abuse as well as the 13-member National Review Board, the lay panel created to investigate reports of sexual abuse in the church. The board had called for a second review this year.

"It demanded some type of immediate attention," said Hubbard, who serves on the ad-hoc committee addressing the crisis. "Waiting until November would have bypassed the audits for this year. We didn't want to do that."

Hubbard said he was pleased that the recommendations were adopted: "It reinforces our commitment to public accountability on the issue."

The bishops' conference voted overwhelmingly for the audit, like the one approved in 2002 in Dallas. That accounting found about 90 percent of dioceses had implemented the reforms, including removal of a priest after a single credible allegation.

This second audit should be completed by Dec. 31, the bishops' conference said.

About a third of U.S. dioceses, including Albany, were found to be in compliance with rules adopted by the Dallas conference, but Albany was not one of 129 to receive a commendation.

Lawyer John Aretakis, who represents dozens who say they are victims of clergy sex abuse, scoffed at the idea of a second audit, saying abusive priests named in the first go-around were undercounted.

In a separate interview, he said his figures are more in line with diocesan investigator Thomas Martin, who last week said he "had priests coming out of his ears" in investigations of at least 150 local clerics.

"I think Bishop Hubbard is still being deceptive when he tries to promote a false appearance of being proactive," Aretakis said. "He should step down for mismanaging clergy for 27.5 years under his watch. There are still massive amounts of pedophiles in active ministry."

As he waits for former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to release the results of her investigation into allegations about his behavior, Hubbard reiterated that he will "leave no stone unturned to prove my innocence."

White was hired by the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board in February after a California man accused Hubbard of having a sexual relationship with his brother, who later committed suicide, in the 1970s, and after a Schenectady man said he had sex with Hubbard in Washington Park in the same era.

White has given no timetable for her findings.

Fulfilling his responsibilities to his flock, attending the conference and working to clear his name take a toll, Hubbard said.

"It's demanding under any circumstances, but especially when you have a cloud hanging over your head that is not true, totally false, erroneous and, indeed, malicious," he said.

A number of bishops lent support before and after sessions last week at the lunch table or in the halls, he said.

"They told me they were praying for me," Hubbard said. "Being out among people and interacting with them has given me the strength to go on."

Even if he is cleared, Hubbard said he knows the allegations will follow him forever.

"And there's nothing I can do," he said. "I'm sure when my obituary is written it will be in there, but I would also hope it will say I was exonerated."


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