Lawsuit Alleges Abuse against Priest Who Believed Hubbard Broke Vows

By Steve Hughes
Times Union
August 28, 2019

The priest who died by suicide after allegedly trying to prove former Bishop Howard Hubbard violated his vow of celibacy with other priests is among the nearly two dozen Albany diocese clergy members accused of sexual abuse.

A 61-year-old man now living in Georgia says in a lawsuit that Father John Minkler abused him when he was an eight-year-old altar boy at St. Joseph’s Church and a student at the parish school in Rensselaer. The abuse began around 1965, according to the lawsuit.

During that time Minkler was a seminary student at Mater Christi Seminary in Albany but assisted at St. Joseph’s, according to the attorneys who filed the lawsuit. He was not an ordained priest until 1972.

The plaintiff could not be reached for comment. One of his attorneys, Paul Pennock, said his client developed a severe drinking problem as a young child as a result of the abuse. The Times Union does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse.

“Minkler was having our client drink wine at this age, he’d essentially get the little boy drunk and then the abuse would commence,” Pennock said.

In his lawsuit, the man alleges that abuse ended when he stopped attending church. The lawsuit says that he is still unable to fully describe the details of the alleged abuse. Pennock said his client did not tell anyone about the abuse when it happened and wasn’t able to talk about it until he entered substance abuse counseling.

At one point, the man did reach out to the diocese for information about Minkler but the diocese did not give it to him, Pennock said.

Mary DeTurris Poust, a spokeswoman for the Albany Roman Catholic diocese, said it takes every accusation of sexual abuse seriously.

"Although we cannot comment on the specifics of this case while it is in litigation, we respect the decision of any survivor to seek legal recourse as part of the path toward healing," she said. "We also continue to urge anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy to contact local law enforcement as well as our diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator so that we can offer help and support."

The lawsuit, like others involving priests from the Albany diocese, names the diocese and the parish as defendants. It is one of more than 500 that have been filed across the state since Aug. 14, when a one-year window for victims of child sexual abuse opened. Hubbard was also sued on the first day of the look-back window. He denied the allegations and took a voluntary leave of absence.

Minkler was found dead in his home on Feb. 15, 2004, days after he was identified as the person who wrote a 1995 letter to then-New York Archdiocese Cardinal John O'Connor accusing Hubbard and other priests of being closeted gays and having sex with one another. He also wrote a letter in 2001 to a conservative Catholic activist making similar accusations and accusing numerous Albany area priests of being gay.

The Friday before he died, the diocese said that Minkler had sought a meeting with Hubbard and signed a statement saying he hadn’t written the letter to O’Connor. A group of conservative Catholics disputed that, saying Minkler had been working with them to identify gay priests within the Albany diocese.

Minkler’s accusations were a large part of the report that Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor, published after the diocese paid her to examine the allegations against Hubbard. White found nothing to substantiate any of the allegations. There was also no mention of any allegations of abuse against Minkler.

Minkler taught at St. Joseph’s until 1979 when Hubbard removed him from the parish at the request of two staff members, according to White’s report. He was removed because he maintained an “atmosphere of fear and repression,” according to the report.

He briefly worked at St. Teresa of Avila Parish before requesting a transfer because he was told he would not be allowed to teach again. Minkler served for four years in the Military Ordinate in New York City before returning to Albany in 1984 to work at the VA Medical Center, where he worked until his death.








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