Times Union [Albany NY]
March 19, 2021
By Edward McKinley
[Photo above: Bishop Howard Hubbard is pictured in his office Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, at the Albany Diocese Pastoral Center in Albany, NY. (John Carl D’Annibale / Times Union)]
Howard Hubbard, the former Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Albany, was accused of sexual abuse in a Child Victims Act lawsuit filed last week — the seventh such action containing allegations against him.
The lawsuit was filed anonymously on a male plaintiff’s behalf by Herman Law, a large firm that specializes in abuse cases. The defendants are the Diocese of Albany and St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church in Clifton Park. The complaint alleges that in 1977 — the year Hubbard was appointed bishop — he approached an 11-year-old boy at a carnival put on by St. Edward the Confessor, told the boy to accompany him to the rectory and molested him there.
“At that age, you just don’t know. You don’t know how to deal with it. And I’ve done a lot of reflecting over the years trying to understand — was this my fault?” the plaintiff, anonymous in the court documents, said Thursday in an interview with the Times Union. (The Times Union generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.)
“For a period of time I experienced a lot of anger toward religion, towards God, my beliefs,” he said. “And over a period of time I just realized that there’s just bad eggs. There’s certain people that are just rotten people, and Bishop Hubbard is just one of those people.”
A message left for Hubbard’s lawyer Thursday was not returned. The former bishop has repeatedly denied abusing anyone.
He has been named in a half-dozen other lawsuits. Sex abuse suits don’t always name the abuser as a defendant, which can make it difficult to identify all cases involving a specific alleged abuser. But both Doe’s lawyer and the Albany diocese said that there are currently seven cases naming Hubbard.
The Doe lawsuit seeks punitive damages from the diocese and the Clifton Park church for negligence in allowing the alleged abuse to occur. It outlines a Vatican policy of concealment and secrecy toward alleged sexual abuse by clergy that was in effect for many years, under which dioceses and parishes were often encouraged to move abusive priests around on assignments or send them to treatment, but never to admit their abuse publicly. This is broadly consistent with the practices revealed in the 2002 Boston Globe investigation and in the 2018 Pennsylvania clergy abuse grand jury report.
“The allegations are that the Diocese of Albany (and) St. Edward Roman Catholic Church failed to protect our client from this individual’s grooming and sexual abuse,” said Jeff Herman, founder of Herman Law.
Four of New York’s eight Catholic dioceses are currently in bankruptcy proceedings as a result of the torrent of lawsuits filed since the state Child Victims Act opened a “look-back” window in 2019 that allows previously time-barred claims, with thousands naming the church. The Albany diocese has not declared bankruptcy, although it faces hundreds of suits, with more coming in almost every week.
Albany’s current Bishop Edward Scharfenberger “takes all allegations of abuse seriously and is committed to uncovering the truth without fear or favor,” said Mary DeTurris Poust, communications director for the diocese. “Bishop Hubbard has maintained that he has never abused a child and enjoys the presumption of innocence throughout the civil and canonical proceedings.”
Hubbard’s lawyer said that as a result of the Child Victims Act “people have come out of the woodwork” with lawsuits and are looking to get money because of persistent advertising in the newspapers from lawyers. He acknowledged that the seven naming Hubbard as an abuser “doesn’t look great,” but that the bishop flatly denies that he ever abused anyone and that many of the “factual predicates of the lawsuits are completely ridiculous.”
The dioceses maintain lists of credibly accused priests. DeTurris Poust said that an internal review board investigates claims of abuse against clergy when they are engaged by claimants directly, but when people file lawsuits and don’t engage with the diocese, the review board process isn’t triggered. She added that, because of Hubbard’s former rank, the internal church investigation of the claims against him is being handled by the Archdiocese of New York rather than the local diocese.
“In the meantime, Bishop Hubbard is not serving in active ministry and has not been since the initial lawsuits (accusing him) were filed in 2019,” DeTurris Poust said.
The plaintiff is in his 50s, and has a daughter who is near the age he was when he was allegedly abused.
“This is what really brought it out again,” he said. “Because I could see the innocence in these little boys and girls and it … really started to bring me to a point where I didn’t like that feeling, where it was all coming back to me like it was yesterday.”
“I’m facing my own mortality and I need to find peace within myself,” he said. “And what better way to do that than to have Mr. Hubbard be accountable to his abuse toward me?”