Accused Albany bishop seeks removal from priesthood

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Accused Albany bishop seeks removal from priesthood
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VATICAN CITY — The retired bishop of Albany, New York, who has admitted covering up for predatory priesthood and has himself been accused of sexual abuse, has asked Pope Francis to remove him from the priesthood.

Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, 84, announced the decision in a statement Friday, the day the United Nations designated the World Day for the Prevention and Healing of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence Against Women. children.

Hubbard said he wanted to be laicized, or return to the lay state, because he could no longer function as a priest, given US church policy that prohibits accused priests from ministering. If accepted, secularization would release Hubbard from his obligations of celibacy.

Asking the pope for voluntary secularization is unusual, especially for a bishop and especially for a cleric who denies allegations of abuse against him. Usually, priests ask to be secularized if the evidence of abuse against them is overwhelming or if they want to leave the priesthood to get married. The Vatican can forcibly secularize priests, or defrock them, as punishment for crimes such as clergy sex abuse.

Hubbard admitted covering up allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in part to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the diocese. He did so in a deposition for one of dozens of claims from hundreds of people who have sued the Diocese of Albany for sexual abuse they say they suffered as children, sometimes decades ago.

But he strongly denied accusations that he himself abused minors. In his Friday statement, Hubbard repeated that assertion of innocence.

“I hope and pray that I live long enough to see my name erased once and for all,” he said.

Hubbard led the Diocese of the Capital District of New York from 1977 to 2014.

Other U.S. bishops have called on Francis to step down for his mishandling of predatory priests, but not be removed from the priesthood altogether. Francis in 2019 forcibly defrocked ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after a church investigation determined he had sexually abused adults and children.

Lawyers for abuse victims hailed Hubbard’s request to leave the priesthood entirely as the culmination of victims’ efforts to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for the abuse and cover-up. While the American church has implemented a “one hit and you’re out” policy for two decades, it has spared the bishops from punishment.

It wasn’t until 2019 that the Vatican adopted internal standards for investigating accused bishops, but these cases have been shrouded in secrecy without any full public accounting of who has been investigated or investigated. a sanction and left it to each diocese or episcopal conference to divulge information.

“We believe Hubbard’s removal is not only justified but necessary. It signals to survivors that their voices are being heard,” attorney Cynthia LaFave said in a statement released by the law offices of Jeffrey Anderson, who has represented hundreds of abuse survivors in the United States.

ABC News

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