Bishop Howard Hubbard, who was bishop of the Diocese of Albany for 37 years, has formally asked the Vatican to permanently remove him from being a member of the clergy. Uncoincidentally, this request comes at the peak of public criticism of his decades-long pattern of criminal behavior. Hubbard is facing multiple lawsuits filed under New York’s Child Victims Act accusing him of child sexual abuse and of systematically shielding accused priests.
Hubbard has adamantly denied the allegations leveled against him, but the fact remains that 10 lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act accuse him of sexually abusing a minor. True to form, Hubbard could not even acknowledge his culpability as he asked the Pope to take the extraordinary action of returning him to the lay state. Instead, he offered a self-serving public statement that appealed to the emotions and sympathy of the public saying, “I hope and pray I will live long enough to see my name cleared once and for all.” Hubbard also stated he has been deprived “of the single greatest joy of my life — serving our community as a Catholic priest in my retirement years.”
Disappointingly—but unsurprisingly—the Diocese of Albany’s reaction to Hubbard’s resignation demonstrates that it still does not understand the depth of harm inflicted on survivors by Hubbard. Instead of acknowledging what the resignation of Hubbard—under whose reign hundreds of children were violated in the most egregious way possible—may mean to survivors, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger offered a public statement focusing exclusively on his concern for Hubbard’s wellbeing: “Whatever considerations and circumstances may have led to this decision, most probably after a difficult process of discernment, we offer him our prayers and our hopes for happiness and well-being. This news may be shocking and painful for clergy and laypersons who know and love Bishop Hubbard and have appreciated his many years of ministry. I offer Bishop Hubbard my own prayers and fraternal assistance.” Bishop Scharfenberger’s comments are shockingly callous, tone deaf, and completely lacking in the type of compassion one might expect from someone who has professed to care about the approximately 440 survivors harmed in his diocese. Bishop Scharfenberger’s statement underscores the fact that his purported concern for survivors is disingenuous.
In March of 2022, Hubbard’s deposition was released to the public for the first time. The deposition brought shocking criminal and corrupt behavior to light, exposing the reckless practices employed by Hubbard and other Bishops across New York State. The deposition revealed the following:
- Recycling perpetrator priests through internal treatment centers. Instead of reporting abuse to authorities or launching a proper investigation, Hubbard sent accused priests to “treatment centers.” Afterwards, they were often reinstated to a parish, and continued to have access to children.
- Neglecting to inform the public of the danger of accused priests in the community. Hubbard did not inform parishioners or the public that priests accused of sexually abusing children were living and working in their communities.
- Neglecting to report abuse allegations to law enforcement. There were many accusations of child sexual abuse that Hubbard intentionally did not report to the local authorities.
- Refusal to terminate abusive priests. Hubbard felt that removing abusive priests from ministry was “too harsh” and often avoided firing them.
“Hubbard’s resignation is decades overdue. No person whose actions contributed to the sexual assault of hundreds of children should masquerade as a leader who holds the moral high ground.” – Attorney Taylor Stippel
This resignation is not a sign of newly discovered morals, a desire to accept accountability or a paradigm shift of character. It is a cowardly response prompted by public pressure, exposure, and the inability to continue to deny his crimes.