The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany said that, for years, the diocese’s solution to allegations of sexual abuse was just to send the accused priest to therapy—before putting them back to work.
Bishop Howard Hubbard, who ran the Albany diocese from 1977 to 2014, made the shocking statement to the Albany Times-Union, which printed it this weekend. Hubbard is also now facing allegations of sexual abuse, which he denies.
“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 said. His statement was provided to the newspaper by his attorney.
“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.”
After the newspaper printed the statement, Hubbard’s lawyer told the Times-Union that what Hubbard, 82, described didn’t constitute a cover-up. Instead, Hubbard maintains that he never overlooked abuse but instead supported policies such as background checks and served as a leader in the fight to prevent sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The Albany diocese is now facing more than 300 lawsuits filed through New York’s Child Victims Act, which dramatically expands child sex abuse survivors’ ability to sue their attackers and the institutions who may have shielded them, the Times-Union found. Several of those lawsuits accuse Hubbard of covering up allegations against other individuals.
In total, the lawsuits filed against the Albany diocese allege that nearly 200 people sexually abused children, according to the Times-Union. Not all of these people are priests, but include figures such as nuns and teachers.
Last week, Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., was charged with allegedly assaulting a 16-year-old boy in the 1970s. McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019, is believed to be the first cardinal to be charged with a sex crime against a minor.