New York bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse asks to be removed from priesthood
A retired bishop from Albany, New York, who has admitted to covering up for predatory priests and has himself been accused of sexual abuse, has asked Pope Francis to remove him from the priesthood.
Howard Hubbard84-year-old bishop emeritus of the Catholic Church, revealed his decision in a statement on Friday, the day the United Nations designated as the World Day for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence.
The priest said he wanted to return to the secular state because he could no longer exercise his functions as bishop, given the American church’s policy that prohibits accused priests from ministry.. If his request is granted, secularization would release Hubbard from his celibacy obligations.
Asking the Pope for voluntary laicization is unusual, particularly for a bishop and particularly for a cleric who denies the sexual abuse allegations against him.
Usually, Priests make this request if the evidence of abuse against them is overwhelming or if they want to leave the priesthood to marry. The Vatican can force priests to laicize, or expel them, as punishment for crimes, in this case clergy sexual abuse.
Hubbard announced that indeed he had been complicit in allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the diocese. He did this in a statement for one of dozens of claims from hundreds of people who have sued the Albany diocese for sexual abuse they say they suffered as children.
Nevertheless, He emphatically denies the accusations that he himself abused minors. In his deposition Friday, Hubbard repeated that claim of innocence.
“I hope and pray that I live long enough to see my name cleared once and for all,” he said.
Hubbard led the diocese in the Capital District of New York from 1977 to 2014.
For their part, other US bishops have called on the pope to resign over his mishandling of predatory priests, but not to remove him entirely from the priesthood. In 2019, Fracisco forcibly expelled former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after an investigation determined that he sexually abused adults and children.
Lawyers for abuse survivors hailed Hubbard’s request to leave the priesthood altogether as the culmination of efforts by victims to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for the abuse and cover-up.
“We believe that the removal of Hubbard is not only justified but necessary. This signals to survivors that their voices are being heard,” attorney Cynthia LaFave said in a statement issued by the Law Offices of Jeffrey Anderson, who has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual assault in the United States.
- Surrogate father sexually abused 18 children in his care; he was sentenced to 170 years in prison in Florida
- More than 750 women will sue for sexual abuse in prisons: legal reform in New York
- Retired Kansas City detective charged with conspiring to run underage sex trafficking operation