In a fairly unusual move, Diocese of Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard has taken to the news media recently to try and rehab his image.
His latest missive comes in an op ed for the Albany Times Union. Before looking in detail at some of his claims, let’s note a glaring omission by the now-retired prelate.
He devotes more than 900 words to defending how he and his colleagues handled child sex crimes. But he doesn’t once mention that he himself is accused, in civil lawsuits, of molesting at least five kids.
Now when someone won’t admit that he’s an accused sex offender, it’s kinda hard to believe him when he says he didn’t protect other sex offenders.
So let’s dive into the claims made by Diocese of Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received, the common practice in the Albany Diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry and send him for counseling and treatment.
—- ‘Common’ doesn’t make it right. “Everybody else does it” is an excuse that doesn’t work for kids and teens, much less for well-educated, powerful, allegedly holy and celibate “men of God” who have many advisors and lawyers and could easily, if they so choose, have gotten and followed excellent advice on dealing with predators.
Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing him back in ministry.
While most priests who were so treated did not reoffend, it did not always work.
—- If you want to make this claim, then show us some stats. I can say “Most of the time, I meet deadlines.” But if history, psychology and common sense suggest that’s not true, then I’d better provide hard data proving my claim.
Our failure to notify the parish and the public when a priest was removed or restored was a mistake.
—- No, it wasn’t. It was a deliberate strategy, day in and day out, over decades. It was a series of self-serving steps to safeguard the diocese’s staff, resources and reputations.
Far better is the policy the Albany Diocese adopted of notifying law enforcement authorities upon receipt of an allegation, with full disclosure to the parish community and the public.
—- Here again, Hubbard – an accused child molester – is asking us to take his claims at face value. The diocese now SAYS it tells police and parishioners and the public about abuse reports, but how do we know this is true or happens in every case?
Most of the allegations received in the 1970s and ’80s involved misconduct that was well beyond criminal and civil statutes of limitations.
—- Sorry, Bishop Hubbard, that wasn’t and isn’t your call. I can’t wreck your car, have it towed away and scrapped, claiming “I knew it couldn’t be fixed, so I handled it myself.” US Catholic bishops may know tons about church teachings and practice and theology and history. They are not, however, experts in the law. They are not qualified to determine which abuse reports are ‘actionable’ and which aren’t.
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.
—-Nice try, but this is disingenuous. Many victim say “I don’t want my name in the newspaper.” Few if any victim ever says “Please bishop, keep quiet about my abuser and do nothing so other he can keep assaulting children.” There are today, and were years ago, ways to protect kids and help victims and call police without compromising the privacy of crime victims.
Further, in several of the incidents, the matter was brought to the diocese’s attention by criminal or civil authorities themselves. There was a sense in those days that these crimes should be handled with a minimum of publicity that might re-victimize a minor.
—- Recall that just a a few sentences back Hubbard claimed most cases were beyond the statute of limitations, which means the victim reported when he or she was an adult. Here, he suddenly reverses himself, and implies that in many cases, a report was made when the victim was still a child. And note the passive voice: “There was a sense. . . “ Whose sense, Bishop? Yours of course.
In 2004, we established an independent mediation program, developed and overseen by retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine, to compensate victims of clergy sex abuse, long before any other diocese in the state and few in the country had done so.
—- And in so doing, prevented many survivors from getting what they really deserved and wanted: their day in court. The obvious, better course of action: join survivors in working to reform archaic state laws that prevented victims from exposing predators and safeguarding kids. But, no, you chose payouts over prevention.
Where we fell short was in our failure to fully understand the impacts on victims and survivors.
—- No, Bishop, where you “fell short” (and it wasn’t a mistaken ‘fall’ – it was a intentional set of selfish decisions) was in your commitment to putting your own needs and the needs of your institution ahead of the needs of victims, families and parishioners. You correctly understood that Catholic moms and dads, and donors and police and prosecutors and judges and juries and lawmakers would all be outraged to learn that child molesting clerics were being shielded and shuffled quietly to other unsuspecting communities where they often molested again.
While we never condoned, ignored or took lightly sexual abuse of minors, we did not respond as quickly, as knowledgeably and as compassionately as we should have. . .
—- Nor as honestly or responsibly, and the result is as clear as it is damning – more innocent kids were hurt, more families were destroyed, more parishioners were betrayed and deceived.
Pray all you want Bishop. But if you want anyone to believe that your “most fervent prayer is that victim/survivors and their families will find healing, reconciliation and peace in God’s love,” show it with your deeds and stop ducking and dodging and making excuses that only rub more salt into the already-deep and still-fresh wounds of thousands.