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Issue Date:  February 27, 2004

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
-- CNS/The Evangelist
Albany bishop denies sex allegations

Appoints independent investigator, pledges full cooperation


The Albany, N.Y., diocese announced Feb. 17 it had hired a former U.S. attorney and criminal lawyer to investigate charges of sexual misconduct against Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. Hubbard, 65, has strenuously denied allegations that he had a homosexual affair with a man who later killed himself, and that he had sexual encounters with a teenage street hustler.

The allegations of events that were supposed to have happened in the 1970s surfaced in early February at news conferences called by attorney John Aretakis, who has repeatedly sued the diocese over clerical sex abuse cases.

Complicating the situation is the Feb. 15 death of an Albany priest, Fr. John Minkler, who had been linked by news reports to a nine-year-old letter that denounced the bishop, accusing him of homosexual affairs, tolerating gay activity in the priesthood and departing from church teachings.

The Albany County coroner has said the autopsy on Minkler’s body was inconclusive, and more tests are needed to determine exactly how he died. Media accounts have speculated that Minkler, 57, committed suicide. Minkler was a chaplain in a Veterans Administration hospital.

Hubbard met with Minkler two days before the priest was found dead. Diocesan officials told NCR that Minkler came to them to deny having written the letter.

However, Stephen Brady, the director of Roman Catholic Faithful, an Illinois-based group that investigates clergy corruption allegations, and Paul Likoudis, editor of The Wanderer, a conservative Catholic weekly published in Minnesota, have told Albany media that Minkler has been a source of information about problems in the Albany diocese for years.

Likoudis told WXXA-TV Fox News 23 in Albany that Minkler told him he was called into the diocesan offices and asked to sign an affidavit that he never wrote to Cardinal John O’Connor, then archbishop of New York, citing improprieties by Hubbard.

“What he said to me was ‘Hubbard forced me to lie,’ and he felt very bad about that,” the television station quoted Likoudis as saying.

Kenneth Goldfarb, the Albany diocese’s spokesperson, told NCR that Minkler had volunteered to come to the chancery and sign the affidavit denying he was the author of the letter. Saying that he finds himself in “the most surreal situation imaginable,” Hubbard has pledged to “leave no stone unturned to prove my innocence.”

“If there were one scintilla of truth to these charges, I wouldn’t put the people of the diocese, my brother priests or my family through the pain and anguish this situation has created,” the bishop said in a Feb. 9 interview with The Evangelist, the diocesan newspaper.

Hubbard had asked county prosecutors to investigate the allegations, but on Feb. 11 Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne declined to investigate citing insufficient evidence. Shortly after the diocese announced that it had hired Mary Jo White, a partner in New York City law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, to investigate the charges. White, a former U.S. attorney who led investigations of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 and aided in the prosecution of John Gotti and other organized crime figures, chairs Debevoise & Plimpton’s 222-lawyer litigation department.

Hubbard was named bishop of Albany in 1977 at 38.

Information from Catholic News Service was used in this report.

National Catholic Reporter, February 27, 2004

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