Mary Jo White's Investigation Finds Nothing to Uphold Allegations against Bishop Hubbard
Albany Times Union [Albany]
June 25, 2004
Mary Jo White's 200-page report on allegations against Albany Roman Catholic Bishop Howard Hubbard comes down to three words: No credible evidence. The bishop's accusers, and those who harbored doubts about his rectitude, must now reconcile their misgivings with Ms. White's impressive examination of what was alleged, what was rumored, and what the facts show. Her thoroughness and credibility could have been improved only with the cooperation of John Aretakis, the attorney who arranged for two of the bishop's accusers to air their charges. Absent compelling new evidence, it is Mr. Aretakis' credibility that is now in question.
Ms. White's efforts were not prosecutorial, but grounded in time-tested investigatory methods, as well as her own reputation as a meticulous independent investigator. Though she lacked subpoena power, she and her staff nonetheless pursued a paper trail that could have uncovered evidence that some or all of the allegations were true, but found none. Nor did interviews with hundreds of people, including diocesan priests and relatives of the bishop's accusers, yield anything close to corroboration.
At the same time, though, Ms. White's report did uncover evidence that contradicts, and in some instances, demolishes previous charges.
By drawing a timeline in the case involving Thomas Zalay, a young man who committed suicide in his parents' Albany home in 1978, Ms. White brought clarity to this tragic incident. Last February, Mr. Zalay's brother, Andrew, released two suicide notes that he said were written by Thomas. One note included a claim of a homosexual relationship with a bishop named Howard. But Ms. White's investigation found that Thomas Zalay was confined to psychiatric centers at the time the alleged abuse could have occurred.
On another charge, Ms. White interviewed former police officers assigned to Albany Washington's Park and a former priest who admitted going there for sex. But none of the interviews produced any testimony that Bishop Hubbard had patronized a male prostitute in the 1970s, as alleged by 40-year-old Anthony Bonneau, who claimed the bishop had paid him for sex while he was a teenage runaway living in the park. As for rumors that Bishop Hubbard frequented gay bars, the investigation did uncover evidence that those spreading the rumors might have confused Bishop Hubbard with another priest who resembled him and who reportedly referred to himself as the bishop.
By scrutinizing two notes written by the late Rev. John Minkler of Watervliet, Ms. White's investigation provided evidence that the priest was the author of both letters, including one accusing the bishop and other priests in the diocese of engaging in homosexual affairs. The Rev. Minkler committed suicide on Feb. 15, shortly after signing a statement disavowing authorship of one of the letters.
Ms. White's investigation made heavy use of polygraph tests taken by the bishop and eight other clergy. While these tests are often challenged by attorneys as unreliable, it is highly unlikely that all of the clergy could have fooled the polygraph. A much more plausible scenario would have been for one or two, or more, to have been trapped in their lies.
Despite the general tone of exoneration in her report, Ms. White rightly emphasized that her investigation addressed only allegations about Bishop Hubbard's personal behavior, and not the separate issue of how the diocese, under Bishop Hubbard, responded to cases of clergy sexual abuse. That issue, and the pain suffered by victims, has yet to reach closure.
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