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Retired Bishop Hubbard asks Vatican to return him to lay state


ALBANY (CNS) — Retired Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany has asked the Vatican that he be “returned to the lay state.”

Retired Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., is seen in this 2013 file photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Nate Whitchurch via Diocese of Albany)

The 84-year-old bishop announced in a Nov. 18 statement that he made the request, citing his age and that he is retired from active ministry. He also repeated his denial that he abused anyone.

The announcement came as Bishop Hubbard continues to face several lawsuits under New York’s Child Victims Act.

“I had hoped that in my retirement I might be able to continue to serve our community as a priest. I am not able to do so, however, because of a Church policy that prohibits any priest accused of sexual abuse from functioning publicly as a priest, even if the allegations are false, as they are in my case,” said the bishop, who headed the diocese from 1977 to 2014.

“Despite the impact on me, I still believe this is a sound policy. I implemented it in the Albany Diocese and continue to support it as a necessary means to maintain and restore public confidence in our clergy,” he said. “In my particular case, the effect of the policy has been to deprive me of the single greatest joy of my life – serving our community as a Catholic priest in my retirement years.”

He added that he desired to continue “in whatever time I have left on this earth … to be able to serve God and the people of our community as a layperson.”

“I also will continue to vigorously defend myself against the allegations against me. Resolution of these civil cases takes a very long time. I hope and pray I will live long enough to see my name cleared once and for all,” the statement said.

The Albany Diocese offered prayers for Bishop Hubbard Nov. 19 as well as a correction as it relates to diocesan policy.

“We are aware of the various reports that have emerged regarding Bishop Howard Hubbard’s request to return to the lay state. Our prayers are with Bishop Hubbard for his well-being and with all who accompany him, that all decisions and actions are in accord with God’s plan,” the diocese said in a statement.

The diocesan statement explained that “some reports” incorrectly stated that diocesan policy forbids a bishop accused of abuse to participate in sacramental ministry.

“A diocesan bishop may regulate, that is, limit, circumscribe or ban exercise within his diocese of any or all sacramental ministries,” the diocese said, noting that Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has taken such a step in some cases.

However, the diocese said, “in the case of Bishop Hubbard, it is he alone who voluntarily removed himself from any public celebration of sacraments.”

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Matvey is editor of The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.