Public Release a Watershed Moment in Holding Bishops Accountable
Testimony Lays Bare Bishop’s Lies in August 13, 2021, Op-ed and Reveals Nearly Four Decades of Danger
(Albany, NY) – Bishop Howard Hubbard’s deposition was released publicly today as a result of a recent decision by Albany County Supreme Court. For months Bishop Hubbard and his attorneys fought vigorously to keep the deposition sealed and out of the public eye. Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys for the survivor who sought the release of the deposition had this to say:
Bishop Hubbard’s testimony reveals decades of decadence, denial and deception at the peril of so many innocent, trusting children, in his own words.
This is the first time that Bishop Hubbard’s testimony about his more than three-decade-long practice of protecting accused perpetrators instead of children has been revealed. Hubbard was the Bishop the Diocese of Albany New York for 37 years. Cynthia LaFave, who also represents the survivor in the case, said:
The testimony will be read with horror by the public. The public will see the culpability of the Diocese in perpetuating a culture of sex abuse by priests that was allowed to continue for decades. Now the public will understand not only what happened but how it happened. Now the public will see the responsibility the Diocese and Bishop Hubbard bear for the atrocity of protecting this institution over the children.
Albany County Supreme Court recently issued a decision denying Diocese of Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard’s motion to seal his deposition testimony. Bishop Hubbard moved to seal his sworn testimony after a survivor of notorious offender Father Gary Mercure, plaintiff AL 46 Doe, filed a motion to publicly release Bishop Hubbard’s deposition testimony. AL 46 Doe is represented by Jeff Anderson & Associates P.A. and LaFave, Wein & Frament, PLLC.
In spring 2021, attorneys for hundreds of survivors, the Diocese of Albany, Bishop Hubbard, and defendants in Child Victims Act lawsuits reached an agreement to expedite the deposition of Bishop Hubbard in light of the Bishop’s age. Bishop Hubbard provided sworn testimony over the course of four days, from April 20, 2021, through April 23, 2021.
Bishop Hubbard’s deposition transcript was publicly filed today. All sexual abuse survivor names and identifying information are redacted from the transcript pursuant to the Court’s order. “Bishop Hubbard’s testimony makes clear that the Bishops’ playbook was employed in New York State just as it has been used by Bishops across the United States,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. “The public revelation of Bishop Hubbard’s sworn testimony is a monumental victory for the thousands of survivors who courageously came forward under New York’s Child Victims Act and sought accountability.”
Bishop Hubbard Takes a Page Out of the Bishops’ Playbook
Bishop Hubbard’s testimony on his 37 years as ultimate leader of the Diocese of Albany reads like a case study of the Bishops’ playbook set forth in Pennsylvania’s 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report. “Unfortunately, we are not shocked that Bishop Hubbard used the same playbook that countless other Bishops have employed to evade accountability and protect perpetrators at the expense of children,” said Anderson.
Bishop Hubbard testified to the strategies he employed throughout his nearly 40-year tenure as Bishop, including:
- Recycle perpetrator priests through Bishops’ treatment center allies: Bishop Hubbard received reports of 11 priests sexually assaulting minors between 1977 and 2002. (Tr. at 90:12–20.) As a matter of “procedure,” he sent accused perpetrators to treatment centers used by Bishops across the United States—Via Coeli in Jemez Springs, NM, staffed by the Servants of the Paraclete; St. Luke Institute; House of Affirmation; St. John Vianney Center; Guest House; Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada. (Tr. at 77:13–24, 102:23–103:4, 137:12–19, 281:4–11, 615:5–15, 731:20–732:6.) Bishop Hubbard testified to receiving reports of child sexual abuse against the following priests between 1977 and 2002:
- Dozia Wilson (Tr. at 63:15–65:21, 74:17–75:11, 85:10–14, 159:5–165:14, 284:18–285:15, 373:4–420:24)
- Carl Stone (Tr. at 75:12–90:11)
- David Bentley (Tr. at 91:4–96:5)
- James Rosch (Tr. at 96:6–102:13)
- Edward Leroux (Tr. at 102:14–107:19)
- John Fitzpatrick (Tr. at 108:11–120:16)
- James McDermott (Tr. at 120:17–134:22)
- Mark Haight (Tr. at 136:3–142:14)
- Edward Pratt (Tr. at 142:15–143:15)
- Joseph Mancuso (Tr. at 143:16–145:5)
- Never inform or warn parishioners or the public of the danger when removing or transferring offending priests: After sending abusive priests to treatment, Bishop Hubbard reinstated them into parishes—despite knowing as early as the 1970s that they could reoffend. (Tr. at 81:12–82:8, 103:19–104:6, 153:12–154:3, 867:2–871:13.) Bishop Hubbard testified that “it was a conscious decision on my part not to inform the congregation” and he did not consider the peril of returning to ministry priests who had admitted to sexually abusing minors. (Tr. 106:14–17, 682:14–15.)
- Don’t report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement: Prior to 2002, Bishop Hubbard never reported, or directed anyone to report, suspicions of sexual abuse of minors or his direct knowledge of perpetrators assaulting children to law enforcement. (Tr. at 85:2–24.) He did not report to law enforcement to avoid “scandal,” preserve “respect for the priesthood,” and protect the reputation of the Church. ( at 81:9–22; 93:3-8, 94:10-12.)
- Refuse to fire offending priests by removing them from the priesthood: Bishop Hubbard believed the penalty of laicization—firing priests by removing them from the clerical state—to be too harsh. He only petitioned to have one sexually abusive priest removed from the clerical state, Fr. Gary Mercure; he did so only after Fr. Mercure was criminally convicted of sexually abusing children; and he “did it because [he] thought it was in the best interest of the church.” (Tr. at 140:4–141:5.)
Bishops’ Playbook Exemplified in Diocese’s Handling of Serial Predator Fr. Dozia Wilson
Bishop Hubbard’s testimony revealed his and the Diocese of Albany’s sordid and secretive handling of serial offenders such as Fr. Dozia Wilson (Tr. at 64:16–65:21, 373:4–420:24). In 1976, the Albany County District Attorney informed Diocese of Albany officials that Fr. Wilson had been accused of sexually abusing a minor, “asked the Diocese to cooperate in assigning him elsewhere, and indicated that he would not be permitted back into the Albany area for any length of time.” (Tr. 378:18–379:14.) Fr. Wilson was sent to the Archdiocese of Boston, where he faced additional complaints. (Tr. at 399:20–408:5.)
Bishop Hubbard recalled Fr. Wilson from Boston in 1979 and, despite knowing that Fr. Wilson had been accused of child sexual abuse, assisted Fr. Wilson in obtaining work in the Diocese of Rochester and took no meaningful steps to ensure that Fr. Wilson did not pose a danger to children there. (Tr. at 386:21–388:5.) Following additional complaints in the Diocese of Rochester, Bishop Hubbard recalled Fr. Wilson from the Diocese of Rochester and sent him to treatment. (Tr. at 412:10–413:2, 415:23–416:3.) Fr. Wilson sought employment as a United States Navy chaplain but was rejected, after which Bishop Hubbard attempted unsuccessfully to obtain employment for Fr. Wilson in the Diocese of Tulsa. (Tr. at 398:10–19, 415:18–416:10) Unable to find Fr. Wilson work outside of his diocese, Bishop Hubbard secured the District Attorney’s blessing to place Fr. Wilson at a parish outside the Capital District; assigned Fr. Wilson to St. Mary in Hudson, New York in 1981; and took no steps to warn parishioners of Fr. Wilson’s dangerous propensities or ensure that Fr. Wilson could not use his position of authority to sexually abuse children. (Tr. at 395:10–396:2, 415:18–420:5.)
At least three survivors filed lawsuits under the Child Victims Act alleging sexual abuse by Fr. Wilson in the 1980s and early 1990s while Fr. Wilson was assigned to St. Mary in Hudson. These three survivors would not have met Fr. Wilson if Bishop Hubbard had taken any one of the number of chances he was afforded to do the right thing.
When Bishop Hubbard Faces Multiple Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in 2004, Diocese of Albany Hires Law Firm and Pays $2.4 Million To Clear Him
After Bishop Hubbard was accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 2004, the Diocese of Albany paid $2.4 million to have the allegations against Bishop Hubbard investigated by a law firm—more than the $2.3 million it had paid to that point in time in settlements to survivors of child sexual abuse. (Tr. at 32:15–21, 175:23–176:13.) Bishop Hubbard continued in his position as Bishop and leader of the Diocese as the investigation occurred. (Tr. at 1068:18-22.) Bishop Hubbard testified that his “primary interest” regarding the investigation was “to see that the investigation included that I had not engaged in any sexual misconduct with minors.” (Tr. at 344:8–20.)
Vatican Goes Silent After Bishop Hubbard Accused of Sexual Misconduct in 2004
Bishop Hubbard testified about the Vatican’s response to the allegations leveled against him in 2004. (Tr. at 18:9–31:6.) The Vatican’s reaction to the serious accusations leveled against Bishop Hubbard was—described charitably—indifferent: Bishop Hubbard contacted the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., had a 15–minute conversation with the Nuncio, and the Nuncio “accepted what [Bishop Hubbard] shared with him and didn’t press for any further information.” (Tr. at 28:9–29:2.)
New York Bishops in Communication and Coordination
Starting in the early 1980s, Bishop Hubbard began to coordinate his response to allegations of child sexual abuse with other Bishops in New York State, including Diocese of Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York. (Tr. at 880:23–886:11.) Bishop Hubbard found that these Bishops were handling abusive priests “pretty much the same way that [he] was coping with it at the same time in Albany”—by sending offenders to treatment and returning them to ministry. (Tr. at 885:22–886:11.)
Ten Lawsuits Accuse Bishop Hubbard of Child Sexual Abuse; He Denies Allegations
Ten plaintiffs filed lawsuits under New York’s Child Victims Act alleging that Bishop Hubbard sexually abused them when they were minors. The lawsuits allege incidents of abuse by Bishop Hubbard spanning nearly four decades—from 1974 to 2012. Bishop Hubbard has strenuously denied the allegations against him.
Testimony Exposes Bishop Hubbard’s Lies in August 13, 2021 Op-Ed
On August 13, 2021—the last day for survivors to file suit under New York’s Child Victims Act—Bishop Hubbard authored an op-ed in the Albany Times Union. Bishop Hubbard’s self-serving statements in his op-ed directly contradicted his sworn testimony, understated his longstanding knowledge of the high rate of recidivism among offenders and the severe impacts of sexual abuse on survivors, and minimized his role in perpetuating child sexual abuse in his Diocese over the course of nearly four decades:
Bishop Hubbard’s Words in Op-Ed
“Most of the allegations received in the 1970s and ’80s involved misconduct that was well beyond the criminal and civil statutes of limitations.”
Bishop Hubbard’s Sworn Testimony
Bishop Hubbard received reports of 11 priests sexually assaulting minors between 1977 and 2002. (Tr. at 90:12–20.) Of those 11 reports, he received 2 from criminal and civil authorities, 3 from parents of minors, and 1 from “a parent or someone at the parish.” (Tr. at 75–144.) Thus, the majority of reports were susceptible to prosecution by criminal and civil authorities had Bishop Hubbard chosen to report.
“The diocese, however, did not take the initiative to report the allegations to criminal authorities partially because, in a majority of the cases, the victims themselves did not want to make the matter public and many times sought confidentiality through their attorneys.”
When Bishop Hubbard knew a priest to have committed a crime of sexually abusing a child, the reason he did not report to law enforcement was to avoid “scandal,” preserve “respect for the priesthood,” and protect the reputation of the Church. (Tr. at 81:9–22; 93:3-8, 94:10-12.)
“While we recognized that sexual abuse of a minor was a heinous crime and morally reprehensible, we did not understand, as early as I wish we had, the devastating and lifelong consequences of this violation of sacred trust.”
Bishop Hubbard understood as early as the late 1970s that child sexual abuse causes lifelong damage to those upon whom it is inflicted. (Tr. at 1,063:4–8.) That child sexual abuse “could have traumatic lifelong effect[s]” on survivors was “the lesson [Bishop Hubbard] came away with very loud and clear” following a 1985 presentation to United States Catholic bishops on sexual abuse of minors in the Church. (Tr. at 874:22–875:12.)
“We as a society now better understand the compulsive, addictive nature of sexual abuse of minors.”
As early as the 1970s, Bishop Hubbard received records from local psychologists and treatment centers “underscore[ing] that this was a problem that was not limited to one time and that it was an addictive problem.” (Tr. at 153:12–23.)
AL 46 Doe’s Motion and the Court’s Decision
Shortly after Bishop Hubbard released his false and misleading op-ed in the Albany Times Union, courageous survivor AL 46 Doe filed a motion to publicly release Bishop Hubbard’s deposition so that the public could learn the true depth and scope of Bishop Hubbard’s and the Diocese’s failure to protect children. In response to AL 46 Doe’s motion, the Diocese of Albany and Bishop Hubbard asked the Court to seal Bishop Hubbard’s deposition testimony.
On March 10, 2022, Albany County Supreme Court Judge L. Michael Mackey issued a decision denying Bishop Hubbard’s motion to seal his deposition testimony. The Court noted that “there is a broad presumption that the public is entitled to access to judicial proceedings and court records.” (Decision at 6.) The Court found that Bishop Hubbard “simply rest[ed] his argument on an unsupported and conclusory assertion” and the “Diocese has submitted no evidence of prejudice.” (Decision at 7.) Thus, “[b]ecause [Bishop Hubbard and the Diocese of Albany] have failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to seal Bishop Hubbard’s deposition transcript, and have not overcome the broad presumption that the public is entitled to access court records, the motion to seal must be denied.” (Decision at 7–8.)
A Victory for Survivors
Over 300 cases were filed against the Diocese of Albany under New York’s Child Victims Act, 10 of whom alleged that they were sexually abused as minors by Bishop Hubbard. “The Court’s decision underscores the fundamental shift in power brought about by the Child Victims Act. Powerful institutions and their leaders can no longer obfuscate, deny, and prioritize their reputation over the protection of children,” said attorney Taylor Stippel.
“Bishop Hubbard’s shocking and false August 13, 2021 op-ed was just one more attempt to suppress the survivors’ voices,” said Anderson. “Without full transparency, the horrors that so many children endured in the Diocese of Albany will be perpetuated. The Court’s decision, brought about by the courage of AL 46 Doe and the other survivors, gives the public the information that is needed to ensure that children are protected.”