Suit claims retired Albany bishop told sex abuse victim to 'forget about it'

By Cayla Harris
Times Union
November 4, 2019

Bishop Howard Hubbard is pictured in his office Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, at the Albany Diocese Pastoral Center in Albany, NY.
Photo by John Carl D'Annibale

Bishop Howard Hubbard, left, Gov. Mario Cuomo, center, and Mayor Thomas Whalen, right, march in Albany's annual Martin Luther Kind Day parade Jan. 20, 1986, in Albany, N.Y.
Photo by Arnold LeFevre

Survivor Jeanne Marron hugs attorney Jeff Anderson next to board of perpetrators in the Diocese of Albany during a press conference where Anderson announced 20 lawsuits filed against the Albany Diocese on the first day the Child Victims Act at the Hilton Albany on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in Albany, N.Y. The act allows a one-year period for claims to be filed regardless of the age of the plaintiff. Survivor and advocate Bridie Farrell stands at right.
Photo by Lori Van Bure

Survivor Mark Lyman speaks during a press conference where Attorney Jeff Anderson announced 20 lawsuits filed against the Albany Diocese on the first day the Child Victims Act at the Hilton Albany on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in Albany, N.Y. S The act allows a one-year period for claims to be filed regardless of the age of the plaintiff.
Photo by Lori Van Buren

A newly filed lawsuit claims retired Bishop Howard Hubbard told a teenage boy more than 60 years ago that he should “forget about” alleged sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of another priest who had what Hubbard allegedly described as "a moment of weakness.”

The suit, filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Albany, claims Father Edward Leroux groomed and abused a 16-year-old boy in the summer of 1956 while the teenager was working weekends at the Jesuit Retreat House in Glenmont. The anonymous plaintiff, now an 80-year-old Albany County resident, claims that he informed Hubbard that Leroux had repeatedly hugged him and touched his genitals, but the then-seminarian allegedly dismissed his accusation and told him to “forget about it and not tell anyone.”

Hubbard on Monday said the accusations against him are false, as he was “just graduating from high school” in June 1956.

“I did not even enter the seminary until the following fall, and I was not ordained as a priest until 1963,” Hubbard said in an email. “No one ever came to report an allegation of clergy sexual abuse to me during those years.”

The plaintiff claims that Hubbard attended Mater Christi Seminary when the victim allegedly reported the abuse to him, saying Hubbard had been known locally as a young “street priest” at the time, even though he would not be ordained for another seven years.

Danielle George, the Manhattan-based attorney representing the alleged survivor, did not return multiple requests for comment Monday seeking to clarify the timing of the alleged abuse.

The new lawsuit comes as the number of civil claims filed under the Child Victims Act cleared 1,000. The recently enacted law opened a one-year "look-back window" for survivors of child sex abuse to lodge civil complaints against their alleged offenders. The window opened in mid-August; as of Monday, 1,033 cases have been filed across the state, 52 of which were filed in Albany, according to a spokesman for the state Unified Court System.

The large majority of cases filed so far have targeted various entities of the Catholic Church. The Albany Diocese has been named as a defendant in more than 50 claims. Included in that count are four separate lawsuits alleging direct abuse by Hubbard, while others allege that the retired bishop and other diocese officials knew of and allowed abuse to happen.

Another case filed in late September claims that Hubbard once told the godmother of an alleged abuse victim who died by suicide that "we are aware of the situation” and that the diocese had sent his abuser to another state “where they still treat priests with respect."

Hubbard, who retired in 2014 after nearly 40 years leading the diocese, has denied all wrongdoing, including ever committing sexual abuse.

Leroux, who was ordained in 1956, took on multiple assignments across upstate New York, including in Troy, Cohoes and Guilderland, according to his obituary.

In 1992, a man approached the diocese with allegations that the priest had abused him as a child more than 50 times over two years in the late 1960s. Despite those allegations, Hubbard allowed Leroux to continue in the ministry until his retirement in 1996.

Hubbard ultimately removed Leroux from the ministry in 2002, as the diocese finally came to a partial reckoning with credible child sex abuse claims against several priests.

When Leroux died three years later after a brief illness, Hubbard officiated his funeral in Glens Falls. At the time, a diocese spokesman defended the bishop's decision to take part, citing "a certain level of forgiveness that is part of Catholic teachings.”

At the time of his death, Leroux was being sued by at least three men who had accused him of sexually abusing them in the late 1970s and early '80s.

He is named on the Albany Diocese's list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

The Rochester Diocese, facing the financial pressure of the dozens of Child Victims Act cases naming the organization, last month became the first diocese in the state to file for bankruptcy since the passage of the CVA. No other dioceses have filed since, but more are expected before the look-back window closes next August.

A spokeswoman for the Albany Diocese did not return a request for comment Monday but previously said the diocese would no longer comment on individual cases "because we do not want to prejudice any investigation or pending litigation."


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