Report Clears Albany Bishop in Sexual Misconduct
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
June 25, 2004
Outside investigators issued a report yesterday clearing the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Howard J. Hubbard, of accusations
of sexual misconduct. The investigation, requested by the bishop
and led by a former federal prosecutor, identified a possible
source of rumors about him: a gay priest who cruised bars and
an Albany park in the 1970's, calling himself "the bishop."
The report comes four months after a flurry of allegations
that Bishop Hubbard had sexual relationships with several
men and a street hustler decades ago. The charges roiled the
Albany Diocese and put the bishop, a force in the city for
40 years, on the defensive.
The investigation was led by Mary Jo White, a former United
States attorney in Manhattan who was retained at great expense
by the diocese's lay review board, which is appointed by Bishop
Hubbard. The diocesan self-insurance fund, ultimately financed
by parishioners, is paying the bill.
Ms. White said the bishop had passed a lie detector test
in saying he had never had "sex of any kind" with
another person. "The facts did not substantiate any of
the charges against Bishop Hubbard," Ms. White said at
a news conference in Albany.
The investigators took pains to lay out the extent of their
efforts, pointing out that the report was 200 pages and had
350 pages of exhibits. They also said they had interviewed
300 people and reviewed more than 20,000 pages of documents,
including personnel records and the bishop's phone logs and
Bishop Hubbard had always strenuously denied the charges
and said that he had never broken his vow of celibacy, but
that the investigation would be the only way to clear his
The allegations arose in February, when a man said he had
come across a suicide note from his brother mentioning an
affair with a bishop named Howard. Soon after, a second man
said that he had several sexual encounters with Bishop Hubbard
as a homeless teenager in the 1970's.
The investigation found "no credible evidence"
of a relationship with either individual or evidence that
the bishop "led a homosexual lifestyle, engaged in homosexual
relations or visited gay bars."
Several priests and even Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester,
one of Bishop Hubbard's oldest friends, were asked whether
they had sex with him and passed polygraph tests in denying
The bishop and his supporters are clearly hoping that the
report will put an end to a chapter that has left the 65-year-old
bishop, one of the nation's most liberal and long-serving,
fighting for his reputation. Bishop Hubbard has led the diocese
Like most of the nation's bishops, he was criticized by victims
of sexual abuse by priests. Longtime conservative Catholic
critics stepped up their opposition to the bishop, promoting
the misconduct allegations.
John Aretakis, a leading foe of the bishop and a lawyer for
many people who said they were abused by Albany priests, denounced
the report, saying Ms. White was not independent. He also
represents the two men who came forward in February.
"Bishop Hubbard paid somewhere upwards of a million
dollars, maybe much more, to buy himself a judge, jury and
investigator to try and clear him," Mr. Aretakis said.
He said he had refused to cooperate because Ms. White had
not agreed to a public meeting before reporters, and because
it would hurt his clients to have her publicly question their
credibility. Ms. White said yesterday that Mr. Aretakis's
refusal to cooperate had extended the time and cost of the
While she refused to estimate the cost, it is sure to be
extremely high. She alone charged $770 an hour, not to mention
the fees of two other members of her firm, Debevoise &
Plimpton, who worked on the case, several investigators and
Her report addressed another mystery, that of the authorship
of a 1995 letter addressed to Cardinal John O'Connor accusing
Bishop Hubbard of sexual relationships with several priests.
The report said that there was no credible evidence to support
the charges and that the priests had passed lie-detector tests
in denying the relationships.
The letter emerged in news reports in February that said
it had been written by an Albany priest and ideological critic
of the bishop, the Rev. John Minkler. Father Minkler denied
writing it, then committed suicide.
The report said it was "very likely" that Father
Minkler had written the letter, along with several other notes
accusing the bishop of sexual involvement with priests. The
investigators said they had found nothing to support Father
Bishop Hubbard was still digesting the report yesterday,
said a spokesman, the Rev. Kenneth Doyle. A statement released
by the diocese said the report "makes clear to any fair-minded
person that Bishop Hubbard has told the truth, that he has
honored his priestly vow of celibacy and that the allegations
against him were completely and utterly false."
The most intriguing aspect of the report referred to an unnamed
priest formerly of the Albany Diocese who looked like Bishop
Hubbard and "led a homosexual lifestyle." He called
himself "the bishop," the investigators said, and
failed a lie detector test when denying that he had used the
Ms. White said witnesses testified that the priest was known
to frequent Washington Park in Albany and pick up young men
for sexual encounters. One of Bishop Hubbard's recent accusers,
Anthony Bonneau, frequented the park around the same time.
There is no evidence that the two ever met, Ms. White said.
The diocese declined to identify the priest, but said he
was removed from ministry more than a decade ago.
Before taking his current post, Bishop Hubbard was a "street
priest" who worked with the homeless and drug addicts.
He used to take runs in Washington Park, the report said.
Ms. White said her task had been difficult. "The only
thing harder to do than to unscramble an egg," she said,
"is to unscramble a rumor."
Marc Santora contributed reporting for this article from