Bp. Hubbard Faces Third Sex Abuse Lawsuit

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 8, 2019   

Questions linger about Hubbard's involvement in death of whistleblower priest

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ALBANY, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The former bishop of Albany, New York is being sued for the third time since the state extended its statute of limitations involving sex abuse.

The lawsuit accusing Bp. Howard Hubbard of abusing a teenage boy in the late 1970s was filed with the state Supreme Court in Albany on Thursday. The lawsuit also names Fr. Joseph Mato as an accomplice to the abuse, which allegedly occurred at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Troy.

Hubbard was appointed the bishop of Albany in 1977. The plaintiff, now 59, alleges that Hubbard and Mato used their clerical roles to "entice" and "take control of" him in order to sexually assault him.

"Because of his childhood abuse, plaintiff ... is unable to fully describe all of the details of that abuse and the extent of the harm that he suffered as a result," says the lawsuit.

There have been more than 800 clerical sex abuse cases filed in New York since the state's Child Victims Act relaxed the statute of limitations for one year beginning in August. The Albany diocese has been named in dozens of those cases, with Hubbard directly accused now for the third time.

The first lawsuit filed in August also involved a teenage boy at the time of the abuse. The lawsuit claims Hubbard sexually abused the 16-year-old male in the 1990s. The lawsuit also names as an abuser Fr. Paul Bondi while he was stationed at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Ballston Spa.

"During the time Fr. Bondi and Bp. Hubbard were employed by the diocese, they used their positions as priests to groom and to sexually abuse plaintiff," reads the lawsuit.

The second lawsuit was filed in September by an alleged female victim who was 16 at the time of the abuse. The victim, now 54, alleges that Hubbard and two other Albany priests, the late Francis P. Melfe and the late Albert DelVecchio, sexually assaulted her repeatedly in the late 1970s.

These cases all involve postpubescent minors. Hubbard denies having ever assaulted any children as bishop of Albany. Hubbard's attorney, Ann Hurley, denies the most recent claim that allegedly occurred at St. Michael the Archangel parish.

She acknowledges that the same victim had accused Hubbard in the early 2000s of abuse. Hurley says the diocesean review board investigated the claim but deemed it not credible. Hubbard didn't resign as bishop of Albany until 2014.

DeTurris Poust, diocesan spokeswoman, confirmed that the independent review board had previously investigated the claim but "found no reasonable grounds to sustain the allegations." She would not comment on how many cases naming Hubbard had been reviewed by the board.

They used their positions as priests to groom and to sexually abuse [the] plaintiff.

Accusations against Hubbard have dated back decades. In the 1990s, whistleblower priest Fr. John Minkler drafted a letter to then-Cdl. O'Connor of the archdiocese of New York naming Hubbard as a ringleader of homosexual clergy in Albany.

In his letter, Minkler included testimony from an Albany physician affirming that two AIDS patients independently spoke of "a ring of homosexual Albany priests which also included Bp. Hubbard."

Two days after meeting with Hubbard in 2004 about his letter, Minkler died, reportedly of suicide. Questions linger about Hubbard's role in the death of the whistleblower priest.

Hubbard has always asserted that he has never broken his priestly vow of celibacy.

Thomas Zalay, who died of suicide in 1978, alleged in his suicide letter that what Hubbard meant by celibacy was simply that he never had any natural conjugal acts with females. In 2004, Zalay's brother Andrew discovered the suicide letter and held a press conference revealing its contents. The letter stated that Hubbard justified homosexual acts by suggesting the biblical definition of celibacy involved only sexual acts with women.

Since first being sued for sex abuse in August, Hubbard has ceased performing public ministry.


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