ALBANY, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - More than 50 new lawsuits have been filed against the diocese of Albany, expanding the list of credibly accused priests in the diocese.
On Monday, sex abuse victim lawyer Jeff Anderson filed over 50 lawsuits against the diocese on behalf of clerical sex abuse victims.
In May, New York's lawmakers extended the Child Victims Act a third time, extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse crimes for another year.
Albany bishop Edward Scharfenberger has faced criticism as the temporary administrator of the embattled Buffalo diocese, where the previous bishop, Richard Malone, stepped down due to his egregious handling of sex abuse cases.
The dioceses of Albany has released a list of just over 50 credibly accused priests and religious since 2015, but two series of lawsuits by Anderson — one last year and the present lawsuit — is hinting that Albany's sex abuse crisis is bigger than the diocese is willing to admit.
Last year New York attorney Jennifer Freeman filed 515 lawsuits in August when the statute of limitations was extended.
Dioceses across the United States already hit hard by sex abuse payouts and dwindling numbers of parishioners have been hit hard by Wuhan virus shutdowns.
But the diocese of Albany has been struggling with sex abuse for decades. Retired bishop Howard Hubbard, who led the diocese from 1977–2014, is facing four lawsuits, with the latest filed against him in October.
His first public accusation surfaced in 2004 when he was accused of being sexually involved with male prostitutes and males of various ages including gay priests in the diocese.
The diocese investigated and exonerated Hubbard, claiming in a follow-up report, "We have done our best to conduct a thorough and 'unintimidated inquiry' and to replace allegation, rumor and gossip with reliable and verifiable evidence."
Two of Hubbard's alleged victims, Andrew Zalay and Anthony Bonneau, refused to participate in the inquiry. Their lawyer claimed the investigator, Mary Jo White, "was never fair or independent," and that "bishop Howard Hubbard was her ultimate client, not the Sexual Misconduct Review Board."
Although nothing substantial surfaced in that investigation, two lawsuits were filed against him last year after legislators extended New York's statute of limitations.
In one lawsuit, a male accuses Hubbard and a now-deceased priest of sexual assault in the late 1980s. Another filed by a man identified only as "P.R." launched a lawsuit alleging he was groomed as a teenager by the bishop and sexually abused by him.
Only a few days later, Hubbard announced he was stepping back from all public duties and ministries. He has, however, declared his innocence, saying, "I do not assert that the individuals who have accused me have not been abused, however, I am absolutely certain that I was not their abuser nor ever participated in their abuse."
Hubbard's nearly 30-year term in Albany has earned the diocese the moniker "predator's playground," with several priests under his leadership being accused of sexual predation on minors.
Father John Minkler revealed in the 1990s that Hubbard accepted homosexuals who had been expelled from seminaries for engaging in sex acts.
Randy Engel, in her book The Rite of Sodomy, revealed:
[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 official cover-ups of clerical sex abuse cases that involved under-the-table payoffs to victims in the form of untraceable checks.
It remains to be seen if all these new accusations will push the diocese of Albany into bankruptcy.