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New York Catholic Diocese covered up sex abuse for decades, says former bishop

by Premier Journalist
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Albany Cathedral- Courtesy of Matt Wade Photography

A former Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has alleged his employer helped cover up reports of child sexual abuse for several decades.

Howard J Hubbard was the Diocese bishop in question from 1977 until 2014 when Edward Bernard Scharfenberger replaced him. Hubbard issued a statement to the Albany Times Union after the paper sent several inquiries to his lawyer. While some had suspected cover-up efforts by the Diocese, Hubbard confirmed that they were going on. Specifically, the Diocese shielded priests and others facing sexual abuse allegations by sending them to private treatment programs rather than turning them over to law enforcement. In several cases, the priests would leave the treatment center and repeat their offenses.

"When an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received in the 1970s and 1980s, the common practice in the Albany diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry temporarily and send him for counseling and treatment," Hubbard told the Times Union. "Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing the priest back in ministry. The professional advice we received was well-intended but flawed, and I deeply regret that we followed it."

Hubbard's statement comes at a tumultuous time for the Albany Diocese. While Hubbard described himself as an advocate for policies that would redress the Catholic Church's history of abuse, the ex-bishop is also facing several allegations of abusing a minor. The church is also facing an estimated 300 Child Victims Act lawsuits filed against the Albany diocese. Hubbard denies that he played any role in covering up his fellow priest's conduct or dismissing abuse claims. 

In a statement sent to the Times Union, attorney Jeff Anderson compares Hubbard to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, an influential leader who was recently defrocked and charged with crimes against a minor last Friday. According to Anderson, Hubbard "was able to protect himself and all of his priests at the same time, doing the same things that McCarrick did. As an offender and also as someone who was in complete control over all the clerics. He was able to protect himself without accountability to anybody, to protect so many offenders. So many kids and so many months, years and decades." 

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