Albany a Predator’s Playground Under Bp. Howard Hubbard

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by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 20, 2018   

Bad bishops, predator priests marred diocese for decades

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ALBANY, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York allowed a homosexual predator to terrorize teens — this according to a pair of #CatholicMeToo respondents, who provide a glimpse into the culture of silence and cover-up that shielded predator priests in the diocese beginning in the 1960s.

Church Militant spoke separately to two Capital Region Catholics, "Xavier" and "Mary," who, as adolescents in the late 1960s, were privy to the crimes of former cleric Fr. John F. Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick attended Albany's now-defunct Mater Christi Seminary (closed in 1969), where his classmates included fellow budding predator John Connelly and Howard J. Hubbard, future bishop of the diocese. Ordained in 1964, he was assigned to parish high school, which soon became his hunting ground. Fitzpatrick quickly honed his grooming technique, captivating adolescent boys with charm and conspicuous consumption.

"He lived a lavish lifestyle," Xavier explained. "We don't know how he got the money, but he always had the best — the best clothes, the best cars — it was so flagrant."



"The school was not a wealthy school, and most of us came from families that didn't have a lot," he said. "We weren't poverty-stricken, but here's a guy who's flashy and he's very interested in us. We were lower-income kids who had nothing, so he used to give us pizza and stuff, and treat us royally. We thought that was pretty cool, you know?" 
 
Mary, a former student at the school, corroborated Xavier's testimony. She described Fitzpatrick as young, vivacious and attractive, and said he used his charisma to attract teens.
 
"He was always sharply dressed and had a nice car, and would invite male students out with him," she said. "Many of these boys came from poor backgrounds, so they were enthralled with being singled out by Fr. Fitzpatrick to take a drive in his car and go on these outings."
 
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Former Mater Christi Seminary (1952–1969)

Mary told Church Militant it was an "open secret" that Fitzpatrick lived with a younger male in a cabin at the local camp for kids. According to her, all the students spoke about it, but nothing was ever done.

Xavier concurred, telling Church Militant that even as Fitzpatrick "continued to perpetrate ... the bishop appointed him director of a camp for kids from inner-city Albany."

"He even had the brass to live in a cabin on the premises of the camp with a twenty-something young man," Xavier recalled. "He may even have been underage. They lived together in the camp. All the counselors knew. Everybody knew what was going on."

He said the diocese would have had to have been aware of Fitzpatrick's crimes at that time, "at least in some cases."

"Some of us told our parents," he explained. "Sometimes the parents got involved. But again, in those days, the bishops were all handling it the same way — by sending predators to counseling." 

Fitzpatrick "never personally did anything with me, but it was the culture he created — that this was acceptable — that did me a lot of damage," Xavier lamented. "He was allowed to do these things in the diocese for years." 

"So many people have suffered because of this," he added. "So many people."

It was always teenage boys. He was a high school parish priest and this guy perpetrated on so many of the young men in my school.
Fitzpatrick went on to pastor a series of parishes during his time as a priest, including Sacred Heart in Castleton and St. Columba's Church in Schenectady in the 1970s and St. Mary's in Crescent from 1980–1993.

In 1993, he was finally exposed. That year, according to diocesan spokesman Fr. Kenneth Doyle, Albany Bp. Howard Hubbard received an anonymous letter accusing Fitzpatrick of sexual abuse. When confronted with the allegations, he admitted to assaulting three minors.

Hubbard responded by dispatching Fitzpatrick to a now-defunct New Mexico retreat center for predator priests — dubbed "Camp Ped" by critics — run by the Servants of the Paraclete.

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Former Servants of the Paraclete complex, New Mexico

At the end of Fitzpatrick's "treatment," Hubbard returned him to Albany and installed him at the chancery as an aide. Fitzpatrick worked there for three years, until additional sex abuse allegations began to surface. He was defrocked in 1996

In secular press reports, Fitzpatrick was described as a pedophile and his victims "children." But according to eyewitnesses Xavier and Mary, Fitzpatrick's case specifically entailed ephebophilia — homosexual predation of post-pubescent young men. 

"It wasn't kids," Xavier stressed. "It was always teenage boys. He was a high school parish priest and this guy perpetrated on so many of the young men in my school."

It wasn't kids. It was always teenage boys.

The case of Fr. John F. Fitzpatrick is just one chapter in the much larger story of the destruction of the diocese. 

Albany's infiltration by the homosexual network was underway by the late 1960s.

Check out Church Militant's #CatholicMeToo coverage.

In 1969, Edwin Broderick — now known to have been a concealer of clerical sex abuse — was appointed bishop of the diocese.

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Bp. Edwin Broderick (1969–1977)

Broderick was ordained a priest and later consecrated a bishop by New York Cdl. Francis Spellman, who, in spite of his carefully cultivated image of orthodoxy, was rumored to be a homosexual. Co-consecrating Broderick alongside Spellman were Bps. Terence Cooke and George H. Guilfoyle, both ordained priests and later consecrated bishops by Spellman — and both rumored to be homosexual.

Under Broderick, who ruled the diocese from 1969–1976, Albany became known for accepting and promoting gay seminarians and priests. Under his successor, Howard Hubbard, homosexual infiltration became pervasive. 

Ordained a priest in December 1963, Hubbard's rise was meteoric; he went from "street priest" in the city's South End to bishop in just 14 years.

Hubbard was consecrated bishop of Albany by Cdl. Terence Cooke and Bp. Edwin Broderick in March 1977. He was just 38 years old — the youngest prelate in the United States at that time.

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Cdl. Francis Spellman of New York (1939–1967)

The notoriously liberal "boy bishop," as he was nicknamed, intensified Broderick's dismantling of Albany's catholicity — a dissolution reflected by diocesan statistics.

In 1965, shortly before Broderick became prelate, Albany was home to 207 parishes. In 2011, shortly before Hubbard's retirement, the number had fallen to 127.

During the same period, the number of priests ministering throughout the diocese fell from 426 to 106.

Again from 1965 to 2011, the number of Catholic elementary schools contracted from 106 to 19; Catholic high schools suffered a similar decline, from 25 to 4. The total number of students attending these schools plummeted more than 90 percent — from 51,131 to 4,527; the number of religious brothers and sisters teaching these students, meanwhile, collapsed — from 1,595 to eight.

Speaking anonymously to The Wanderer's Paul Likoudis in 1991, an Albany priest excoriated Hubbard's "pastoral plan" for the diocese. "We have planned destructiveness," he explained. "Bp. Hubbard wants to create a structure where he can appeal to various types — those who want married priests, women priests, homosexual priests."

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Howard Hubbard as a young man

Like his predecessor, Hubbard has long favored the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood. As bishop, he was described as "the ringleader of a homosexual network" operating in his diocese. 

In the 1990s, faithful priest Fr. John Minkler began chronicling Albany's destruction under Hubbard. Through his research, Fr. Minkler discovered Hubbard welcomed gays who had been expelled from seminaries elsewhere for engaging in homosexual acts, planting them inside Mater Christi and ordaining them upon their graduation. He also documented a host of Albany priests were often seen cruising the city's gay districts.

In her book The Rite of Sodomy, author Randy Engel documented the fruits of Hubbard's open-door policy:

[T]hroughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Diocese of Albany was plagued with clerical and religious sex scandals including homosexual priests with live-in lovers; priests dying of AIDS from homosexual affairs; a lesbian nun who underwent artificial insemination; a priest who underwent a sex-change operation; and numerous offiical cover-ups of clerical sex abuse cases that involved under-the-table payoffs to victims in the form of untraceable checks.

Father Minkler died mysteriously in 2004. His death was officially ruled a suicide.

Like then-Bp. Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, Hubbard presented himself as tough on predator priests, but like Wuerl and Broderick, he covered up clerical sex abuse by shuffling sex abusers from parish to parish.
 
He has also been dogged by allegations of homosexuality — accused of soliciting at least two gay prostitutes during his episcopate.
 
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Hubbard in the early years of his episcopate
 
Hubbard is linked to Thomas Zalay, a Catholic who in 1978 committed suicide at age 25.
 
In February 2004, Zalay's brother Andrew discovered a letter his brother wrote just before killing himself.
 
Zalay described being groomed and pressured into sex with Hubbard, saying Hubbard justified homosexual acts by suggesting the Bible defined celibacy as avoiding sexual contact with women.
 
But Zalay rejected the bishop's attempts to excuse the behavior — he recognized that homosexual acts are sinful.
 
In his letter, Zalay said he didn't consider himself homosexual and explained he wanted to get away from Hubbard.
 
Zalay felt the only way to escape Hubbard's grasp was suicide. On April 19, 1978, he set himself on fire and burned to death at his parent's home in Albany.
 
Hubbard denied involvement with Zalay in a press conference. But the next day, Anthony Bonneau stepped forward with claims that he'd had sex with Hubbard at least twice in the 1970s as a teenage runaway. The encounters, he said, happened in Albany's Washington Park, a gay cruising spot for anonymous sex.
 
The bishop denied Bonneau's allegations, but shortly after, Judy Berben, wife of deceased Albany police officer Sgt. Joseph W. Berben, testified in a sworn affidavit that in the late 1970s her husband encountered Hubbard parked in Washington Park with an adolescent boy in drag. Sergeant Berben did not arrest Hubbard, owing to his position as bishop.
 
An intensive investigation, led by former prosecutor Mary Jo White, followed the allegations. It concluded with a 200-page report clearing Hubbard of allegations of sexual misconduct, citing "no credible evidence."
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Hubbard with pro-gay Rochester Bp. Matthew Clark
 
Hubbard also played a dubious role at the U.S. bishops' June 2002 meeting in Dallas on clerical sex abuse.
 
It is now known that disgraced former Cdl. Theodore McCarrick torpedoed the Dallas Charter establishing provisions for accountability and transparency to better protect minors from predator priests. Together with allies among his brother bishops, McCarrick — a serial sexual predator — deliberately diluted the Dallas Charter, apparently tailoring the documents to protect himself and others like him after decades of abusing seminarians. In the original draft, the provisions bound all "clerics" — not just priests and deacons, but bishops, as well. But the Dallas Charter was redesigned to exclude bishops from accountability, critics say, precisely because the bishops wanted it that way.

Hubbard, meanwhile, fought even the watered-down Dallas Charter draft. The only bishop to oppose the document's "zero-tolerance" provisions, Hubbard floated an amendment that would have allowed "discretion" in handling predator priests. His amendment didn't pass, but three months later, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops consoled Hubbard by appointing him to their committee on sexual abuse. 
 
Hubbard stepped down as bishop in 2014. During his 37-year episcopate, Hubbard paid out millions of dollars of his parishioners' money to settle sex abuse claims, even as he continued to indulge the very network of homosexual priests he helped create.
 

 

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