It is an official recognition of a widely suspected practice. In written responses to the American media Times Union published Saturday, July 31, Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop Emeritus of Albany, a diocese covering the state capital of New York, indicated that when accusations of sexual abuse were made against a priest, he was “Temporarily” away from the ministry.
“When an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received in the 1970s and 1980s, the common practice in the Diocese of Albany and elsewhere was to temporarily remove the priest from the ministry and send him for consultation and treatment “, explained Bishop Hubbard. The period to which he testifies corresponds to the beginning of his episcopate, since he was at the head of this diocese for no less than 37 years, from 1977 to 2014, when he retired shortly after reaching the age of 75 years old.
“I deeply regret ”
“It was only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined that the priest was able to return to the ministry without reoffending that we considered doing so,” continued the Bishop Emeritus of the New York State Capital. The professional advice we received was well intentioned but not free from flaws, and I deeply regret that we took it. “
→ ANALYSIS. Sexual abuse: in twenty years, the slow awareness of the bishops
By these statements, Bishop Hubbard implicitly acknowledges that cases of sexual abuse were handled internally, rather than reported to the police. According to Times Union, the bishop’s lawyers stressed, however, that these declarations did not mean that these cases, which could have minors as victims, had been covered up by the diocese.
For their part, the diocesan authorities of Albany were keen to distance themselves from the declarations of the bishop emeritus. “We can say with absolute conviction that the Diocese of Albany takes all allegations of abuse seriously and remains committed to uncovering the truth without fear., thus declared to Times Union a spokeswoman. Our first concern is for the survivors, we are ready to accompany, support and help them, and we commend them for the courage they show in coming forward. “
” Reopen old wounds ”
For his part, Mgr Edward Scharfenberger, current bishop of the place and direct successor of Mgr Hubbard, published in the wake of the publication of the Times Union a message on Twitter asking “All Catholics to pray for survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, as well as for their families and parishes, especially as recent reports risk reopening old wounds.”
Bishop of Albany for nearly four decades, Bishop Hubbard is mentioned in several complaints filed with the American courts for his handling of cases of sexual abuse committed by priests in his diocese. He himself is the subject of at least five charges of sexual assault against minors.