Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard was sitting on a house of cards.
On the outside, the Catholic diocese that was home to the New York State capitol looked like any other prestigious faith community. But on this inside, it was a safe haven for predators, with local children paying the price.
For decades, officials in the diocese were quietly sending child predators to church-owned treatment centers in New Mexico and elsewhere. Instead of calling the police when they knew that a priest was sexually assaulting kids, they secretly shuttled the priest out of state and out of the reach of law enforcement.
Then, when the coast was clear—or as Hubbard stated: a mental health professional said it was “okay”—they put the priest right back into ministry with access children.
Now, Hubbard himself has been accused of sexually abusing minors.
How do we now know all of this? Hubbard himself disclosed the truth in legal documents.
Why did he decide to talk and make these admissions? One reason and one reason only: The New York Child Victims Act forced his hand.
Bishop Hubbard did not come clean about child sex abuse and cover-up because it was the right thing to do. He didn’t do it because his conscience was burdened, or he felt guilty, or because of his role as the spiritual leader of Albany’s Catholics. Bishop Hubbard gave these statements because brave survivors demanded accountability in the civil justice system and left him no room to hide.
Had New York lawmakers not changed the law to allow survivors to use the courts and expose what happened to them, we would never have been able to learn just how pervasive child sex abuse and the cover-up were and still are in the Diocese of Albany. The fox was guarding the henhouse, so to speak, and every Catholic child was potential prey.
The tragedies in Albany and elsewhere were easily preventable. One Catholic official could have done the right thing for the sake of the innocent children in their care – decades ago. But no one did. Instead, the Child Victims Act and brave survivors are leading the charge in child protection. Don’t let church officials tell you any differently.
Here is what we have learned from Albany:
We have no reason to believe that anything has changed. The cover-up of child sexual abuse in the diocese is most likely still “business as usual.” Why? Because until the Child Victims Act passed, they had no to reason to change. Now, they expect us to take them at their word that they are different. However, their actions show us otherwise.
Had the Child Victims’ Act not been passed, we never would have learned the scope and scale of the cover-up. We would never have learned the risks that existed and still exist. We would never have learned that Hubbard himself stands accused of abuse. The secrets would have remained secret, and we would never know the damage and the risks they have wrought.
Retroactive Civil Windows for survivors are effective anti-crime measures that hold wrong-doers—abusers and those who cover-up abuse—accountable to survivors, the courts, and the public. The news from Albany should be a wake-up call to lawmakers everywhere. If there is abuse and cover-up in upstate New York, it also likely exists in every Catholic diocese across the country.
The New York Child Victims’ Act closes on August 13, 2021. If you were sexually abused as a child in New York, or know someone who was, time is short. Coming forward protects kids and helps other survivors start their own journey toward recovery and healing.