Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard

Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard said in a statement Friday that he “never sexually abused anyone” and is taking a voluntary leave of absence from the Diocese of Albany to deal with the allegation.

In a lawsuit filed against the Diocese and other entities Aug. 14, the first day of the Child Victims Act, a man claimed that Bishop Hubbard - formerly the Bishop of Albany for 37 years - sexually abused him in the late 1990s when the man was 16. 

“When I retired as Bishop of the Diocese of Albany five years ago, I put my name on the list of retired priests who help out as needed in our parishes. For the last five years, I have had the privilege of celebrating Mass and presiding at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, graduations and funerals at parishes in every corner of our Diocese. This opportunity for continued service to our people has been a spiritual joy for me” Bishop Hubbard said in a statement.

“Earlier this week, I was publicly accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a minor in the 1990s. With full and complete confidence, I can say this allegation is false. I have never sexually abused anyone in my life. I have trust in the canonical and civil legal processes and believe my name will be cleared in due course.

“In the meantime, I will temporarily step aside from my public ministry. This is a profoundly painful step: I have been a priest for 55 years. My ministry is my life. But stepping aside temporarily now is the right thing to do. Our people and our broader community must be assured that our church leaders, active or retired, and indeed all clergy are living in accord with the highest standards that our sacred ministry requires.

“With humility, I have advised Bishop (Edward B.) Scharfenberger that I will take a voluntary leave of absence until this matter is resolved.”

Bishop Scharfenberger backed Bishop Hubbard in his decision to take a leave of absence.

"Bishop Scharfenberger supports Bishop Hubbard’s decision to step aside from ministry until this case is resolved, even as the Bishop Emeritus steadfastly maintains his innocence. Bishop Hubbard graciously put others first at this most difficult moment,” said Mary DeTurris Poust, director of communications for the Diocese of Albany.

After the news of Bishop Hubbard broke on Wednesday, the Diocese of Albany released the following statement:

“While this charge is extremely distressing for the Diocese of Albany, the Bishop Emeritus is entitled to be treated in the same manner as any other priest or deacon who has been accused of abuse. The Diocese has clear policies and procedures in place when such accusations arise, and we expect those to be followed in this case, and in every case.

“It is critically important to remember that, like anyone else, Bishop Emeritus Hubbard enjoys the presumption of innocence, and we will withhold any judgment until all the facts are known and this case is resolved. We take all allegations seriously and pray for all who come forward with allegations,” the statement continued.

“In accordance with Pope Francis’ recently updated reporting guidelines (known as Vos Estis), Bishop Scharfenberger has informed the Papal Nuncio as well as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who serves as the Metropolitan Archbishop for the New York Province, of the legal claim against Bishop Hubbard. “After his conversation with the Cardinal today, Bishop Scharfenberger reported that Cardinal Dolan urged full cooperation with the investigation, expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for the clear directives in Vos Estis, and offered prayers for all involved.”

Bishop Hubbard was born in Troy, ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Albany on Dec. 18, 1963, and on Feb. 1, 1977, was appointed as the ninth Bishop of Albany by Pope Paul VI, making him the youngest bishop in the United States at that time; he was 38 years old. He was ordained to the episcopacy on March 27, 1977, at Siena College in Loudonville.