Spectrum News [Syracuse NY]
April 1, 2022
By Jaclyn Cangro
[This report includes video interviews with two survivors, Colleen Garbarini and Gordon Smith, and a Twitter clip with more interview content. See also the deposition of Bishop Howard Hubbard.]
The release last week of nearly 700 pages of testimony by former Bishop Howard Hubbard on priest abuse in the Albany Catholic Diocese helped to validate claims made by survivors of priest abuse, accusers said.
Last week’s ruling to unseal Hubbard’s deposition was the first time accusers had the chance to read his multi-day testimony. While some attorneys had access to the file, survivors like Gordon Smith did not.
“Finally, we have confirmation from them that they have been doing this all along,” said Smith, who filed one of about 300 Child Victims Act lawsuits against the Albany Diocese in 2019.
Smith said he read parts of the deposition and press articles detailing the almost 700-page document.
In the deposition, Hubbard describes how the church previously handled allegations of sexual abuse. According to Hubbard, most priests he spoke to admitted the abuse to him. The majority were then sent for treatment and reinstated somewhere in the diocese, without the congregation or law enforcement being notified about the sexual abuse allegations.
“They were more concerned with moving priests from diocese to diocese and more concerned with the confidentiality of the records than they were of the children they were putting in danger,” said Smith.
Survivors Spectrum News 1 spoke with, who filed lawsuits against the church, said reading the deposition was difficult.
The contents have led at least one survivor, Colleen Garbarini, to come forward publicly for the first time. She’s been interviewed before, but only anonymously.
“I’ve just come to the point of realizing that I don’t have any shame in this. The shame is not mine. It lands somewhere else,” said Garbarini.
Garbarini has filed a CVA lawsuit against the Albany Diocese and said prior to reading the deposition, she was unaware members of clergy are not mandatory reporters of sexual abuse.
In New York, clergy are not legally required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement, as other mandatory reporters are such as public school teachers.
A bill in the state legislature that would add make clergy to the list mandatory reporters of sexual abuse has yet to make it to the Senate or Assembly floors. In the 2019-2020 session, a version of the bill passed the Assembly but was never voted on by the Senate.
In the deposition, Hubbard noted several times that he was not legally required to report any abuse allegations.
“It feels like they’re saying they didn’t break any laws here and maybe that’s true, but of men of God to allow these things to happen and not come forward and report them when children are being hurt, that’s just despicable to me,” said Garbarini.
Current Albany Diocese Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said he supports legislation to make clergy mandatory reporters, as long as there are protections for what is said during confession. This mirrors comments he previously made on the topic, saying a priest is not allowed to reveal what is said to him during the sacrament of confession.
In the first television interview since Hubbard’s deposition became public, Scharfenberger said, “It’s similar, in some different ways, to attorney-client privilege or to a doctor’s confidentiality. That has to be worked out. But let’s move forward and let’s make sure that we don’t have hidden corners.”
The current bill does include an exemption for confession.
Scharfenberger also says the diocese has changed how it handles allegations of abuse, citing differences to how Hubbard described claims prior to 2002.
“I’m being frank and I’m being honest in saying this, that the way many cases, in some cases not only in Albany but in other dioceses, were dealt with in the past is not what is happening now. We do not cover up any report. We take all claims seriously. We can’t change the past, but we can heal from the past,” Scharfenberger said.