Albany Bishop Fights Abuse Allegation
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 4, 2004; 3:33 PM
ALBANY, N.Y. - Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard has never shied away from a fight, and now the spiritual leader of 400,000 Roman Catholics in upstate New York is waging an unusually public campaign against sexual misconduct allegations to save his career.
The claims: That he was involved in two gay relationships, one of which led to a man's suicide 30 years ago, and that he sheltered gay priests from abuse accusations.
Hubbard vigorously denies the charges and insists he has kept his vow of celibacy. He has even persuaded the diocese council to hire a former federal prosecutor to do an independent investigation.
And he insists the charges aren't just aimed at him.
"It is not just an attack upon myself. It is an agenda about the direction the church is moving," Hubbard said. Some conservatives want to "go back to the church of before the second Vatican Council" and see him as a liberal target.
"I'm not going to allow myself to be used that way," he said.
On Feb. 4, Hubbard was accused of having sexual relations in 1978 with a man who later killed himself. The claim came from the dead man's brother, who said he found a note in his parents' home identifying Hubbard.
The next day Hubbard, 65, denied having sexual relations with anyone, ever. Two days later, a second man claimed Hubbard paid him for sex in the 1970s in an Albany park where the man - then a homeless teenager - lived.
On Feb. 15, the scandal deepened. A priest, the Rev. John Minkler, was found dead in his home in the small city of Watervliet, outside Albany. Two days earlier, he had met with Hubbard to deny involvement in the writing and sending of a 1996 letter to the New York Archdiocese that claimed Hubbard was part of a "ring of homosexual Albany priests."
Minkler had been linked to the letter in a local TV newscast days before. The cause of his death is unknown but remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, the national conservative group Roman Catholic Faithful has dogged Hubbard for years as a liberal vanguard and is now calling the bishop's aggressive campaign a sham.
"What's that saying? `Thou doth protest too much'?" said Stephen Brady, leader of the Illinois-based Roman Catholic Faithful. The group, which strongly opposes gay clergy and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, drew more than 100 supporters - and nearly as many opponents - to a raucous rally in February a half-dozen blocks from Albany's cathedral.
"If somebody falsely accuses you of a heinous act, an immoral act, you deny it and then you let it go," Brady said. "If they persist, you threaten legal action."
"I've heard a lot of them (bishops) say they encourage an investigation, but never, that I know of, has a bishop hired ... his own lawyer to investigate himself."
© 2004 The Associated Press