Attorneys ask to unseal ex-bishop’s deposition, citing ‘outright lie’ in op-ed

The Telegraph [Alton IL]

September 28, 2021

By Brendan J. Lyons

Former Bishop Howard J. Hubbard has been accused of misrepresenting the Albany diocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases, including making “at least one outright lie,” in an Aug. 13 op-ed in the Times Union in which he sought to explain the religious organization’s cover-up of the abuse. 

Attorneys for individuals who have filed sexual abuse claims against the diocese have made the accusation against Hubbard in recent court filings, and are asking a judge to unseal key portions of the former bishop’s testimony in April, when he was deposed in private for four days as part of pre-trial proceeding involving dozens of cases filed under the state’s Child Victims Act.

In March — a month before Hubbard was deposed — the attorneys in the case had agreed to a stipulation that would allow the transcript of his deposition to remain sealed under a protective order.

Jeffrey R. Anderson and Cynthia S. LaFave, attorneys for dozens of alleged victims who are suing the diocese, Hubbard or other former priests, told a judge in a recent filing that the reasons supporting the protective order — including potential nuisance and prejudice — are no longer valid because of Hubbard’s alleged misstatements in the op-ed about the diocese’s handling of abuse complaints.

“Bishop Hubbard’s Aug. 13 … op-ed in the Albany Times Union is rife with misrepresentations by omission and at least one outright lie regarding his handling of child sexual abuse allegations during his 37-year tenure as bishop of the Diocese of Albany, and the public has a right to know the full truth,” the attorneys wrote.

Hubbard’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The plaintiffs’ filing notes that Hubbard’s legal team as well as the attorney for the Albany diocese oppose the potential unsealing of the deposition.

Two weeks before Hubbard’s op-ed was published, the Times Union reported on a similar statement he made to the newspaper in which he confirmed that the diocese had shielded priests and others facing sexual abuse allegations — sending them into private treatment programs rather than contacting law enforcement officials or alerting parishioners. Some of those priests allegedly emerged from treatment and committed more crimes. Hubbard ran the diocese from 1977 to 2014.

“When an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received in the 1970s and 1980s, the common practice in the Albany diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry temporarily and send him for counseling and treatment,” Hubbard had said. “Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing the priest back in ministry. The professional advice we received was well-intended but flawed, and I deeply regret that we followed it.”

The unsealing of Hubbard’s deposition, which was conducted by attorneys in multiple abuse cases, is being sought in a case in which a “John Doe” victim is suing the diocese and Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Queensbury, one of the parishes where former priest Gary J. Mercure, who is serving more than 25 years in a Massachusetts prison, was found to have raped and sexually abused multiple altar boys.

Hubbard’s op-ed in the Times Union was published as the Albany diocese is facing roughly 300 Child Victims Act lawsuits. The cases, filed under a law that gave victims a two-year window to bring claims outside of New York’s statute of limitations, describe decades of abuse allegedly committed by priests and others who preyed on the children in their care, while using their positions to evade accountability.

In a detailed response to questions from the Times Union over the summer, Hubbard said he was a leader in the church on fighting abuse and had championed policies such as background checks and compensation funds to redress the church’s legacy of sexual abuse. He denied that he ever brushed aside abuse.

In the op-ed published two weeks after that story was published, Hubbard said their “failure to notify the parish and the public when a priest was removed or restored was a mistake. … Most of the allegations received in the 1970s and ’80s involved misconduct that was well beyond criminal and civil statutes of limitations. … There was a sense in those days that these crimes should be handled with a minimum of publicity that might re-victimize a minor.”

Anderson, an attorney with one of the largest abuse firms in the country, on Monday declined to comment on the request to have Hubbard’s deposition unsealed, saying the filing “speaks for itself.” He and LaFave have asked a judge to rule on their unsealing request in the coming weeks.

In their filing, the attorneys argue that releasing Hubbard’s testimony “serves the goals of the New York Legislature in enacting the CVA, including the public identification of predators, accountability for institutions that harbored child sex abusers, and justice for survivors. … If Bishop Hubbard wanted to maintain the secrecy of the information that he was questioned about in the deposition, he should not have gone public with the very same subject matter.”

Peter J. Saghir, an attorney for another alleged victim in the case against the diocese and Our Lady of Annunciation Parish, filed a motion Monday in support of the unsealing request made by Anderson and LaFave. 

Saghir wrote in his filing that Hubbard’s op-ed contained “material contradictions to his sworn testimony in an effort to conceal the true nature of his conduct and improperly influence the jury pool” should the cases go to trial.

“Bishop Hubbard represented to the public that most of the allegations received in the 1970s and 1980s involved misconduct that was well beyond the criminal and civil statute of limitations, while the opposite is true,” Saghir wrote. 

He added that Hubbard’s claims that he and society now better understand the addictive nature of sexual abuse and the lifelong scars for the victims are contradicted by his testimony in the deposition that indicate he was aware of those consequences decades ago, when the abuse was occurring. Saghir said Hubbard acknowledged receiving detailed information from experts who informed him in the 1970s of the lifelong consequences for survivors and the unlikelihood that abusers would strike only once.

Hubbard, “as leader of the diocese, protected and enabled predator priests to continue abusing children despite the risks known to him of re-offending with his self-serving goal of avoiding scandal and preserving the church’s reputation,” Saghir wrote. “He seeks to continue to do the same now through  misrepresenting material facts, and contradicting his own sworn testimony to avoid public scrutiny and avoid scandal, while promoting ‘respect for the priesthood.'”

Brendan J. Lyons is a managing editor for the Times Union overseeing the Capitol Bureau and investigations. Lyons joined the Times Union in 1998 as a crime reporter before being assigned to the investigations team. He became editor of the investigations team in 2013 and began overseeing the Capitol Bureau in 2017. You can reach him at or 518-454-5547.