Featured Image
Bishop Howard Hubbard, emeritus bishop of Albany.YouTube screenshot

ALBANY, New York (LifeSiteNews) — The scandal-ridden former bishop of Albany, Howard Hubbard, has died aged 84 following a “major stroke,” just weeks after invalidly attempting to contract a marriage.

Bishop Hubbard, who resigned his see in 2014, died at Albany Medical Center on Saturday, where he had been hospitalized earlier that week after experiencing a “major stroke.” Hubbard’s successor, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, asked for prayers for Hubbard on August 18, stating that chaplains had visited and anointed the former diocesan bishop.

The Associated Press subsequently reported on August 19 that Hubbard had died, citing the “massive stroke.” In a statement issued later that day, Scharfenberger spoke on the duty of a priest, while avoiding commenting on Hubbard personally.

“As all priests are human, broken men, in need of redemption themselves from their own sins, we also pray for those who were in any way hurt or wounded by any priest they may have encountered,” Scharfenberger said in the statement. “We join with everyone who can see this moment as an occasion to pray for all priests, living and deceased, and those they serve, to lift up our minds and hearts to the one God who alone knows our hearts and seeks the salvation of us all.” 

Hubbard’s death occurred just weeks after he attempted to contract marriage — an event that was invalid due to his clerical vow of celibacy. The bishop announced in July that he had recently married a woman in a civil ceremony. 

READ: Pro-LGBT retired New York bishop invalidly attempts marriage in civil ceremony

Writing an open letter to the Times Union, Hubbard stated he had “fallen in love with a wonderful woman who has helped and cared for me and who believes in me.”

Scharfenberger issued a statement noting the Catholic Church’s teaching on priestly celibacy and that, as such, Hubbard’s civil marriage had no legitimacy or standing for the Church.

“While he is not permitted to represent himself as a priest or perform the sacraments in public, Bishop Hubbard remains a retired bishop of the Roman Catholic Church,” Scharfenberger wrote. “The Church does not acknowledge his marriage as valid. He remains a retired Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church and therefore cannot enter into marriage.”

In 2022, Hubbard had asked the Vatican to be laicized, arguing that due to the allegations of abuse that were being investigated he could not function in priestly ministry. But Scharfenberger stated at the time that Hubbard’s ministry had not be restricted by anyone other than Hubbard himself.

A diocesan bishop may regulate, that is, limit, circumscribe, or ban exercise within his diocese of any or all sacramental ministries. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has done so in some cases, but in the case of Bishop Hubbard, it is he alone who voluntarily removed himself from any public celebration of sacraments.

Hubbard’s laicization request was denied by the Vatican in March 2023, with Hubbard stating that he was at the time “encouraged to wait patiently and prayerfully and to continue to abstain from public ministry until seven civil lawsuits against me alleging sexual misconduct had been adjudicated.”

READ: Ex-bishop of Albany admits reassigning clerical sex abusers because he feared ‘scandal’

As noted by The Pillar, a statement began circulating among the media following Hubbard’s death that was purported to have originated from the diocese. It described Hubbard as “tireless in his ministry,” along with being “humble and witty but fearless in the face of controversy and, while deeply respectful of church teaching and tradition, profoundly independent in his thinking.”

However, a diocesan spokesman told The Pillar that the statement had actually been written by “a public relations firm contracted by Hubbard before his death.” 

Bishop Hubbard: the ‘boy bishop’

Appointed by Pope Paul VI to lead the Diocese of Albany in 1977, Hubbard was the youngest bishop in the U.S. at the time of his appointment, aged 38. This led to his designation as a “boy bishop.”

Towards the end of his tenure, a number of allegations began to be made, both against him and against other priests of the diocese. 

In 2004, Bishop Hubbard was himself accused of having engaged in homosexual activity in the 1970s. Hubbard strenuously and consistently denied this, and an investigator that the diocese hired later cleared Hubbard of the allegations. Over $2.4 million was paid to the investigator, Mary Jo White, and her firm — more than the total of $2.3 million that the Diocese of Albany had at that time paid to “the survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.”

However, he did admit to enacting a cover-up of sexual abuse allegations concerning clergy, saying that the diocese did not always notify law enforcement when allegations were made.

In documents of Hubbard’s testimony released in 2022, it was revealed that Hubbard stated that he received complaints and allegations about 11 priests between 1977 and 2002 regarding the sexual assault of children. Hubbard did not report these allegations to the police, but instead sent the priests for “treatment,” although he did not inform their parishioners what the treatment was for. 

Hubbard noted in his “shockingly frank deposition” that the priests’ absences would sometimes be explained as being for “health reasons.”

He recounted how one Fr. David Bentley had admitted to the bishop that he had indeed abused a child, but Hubbard did not report the matter to the police since he was “not a mandated reporter.”

Another instance was the case of Fr. James Rosch, who also “admitted” to the bishop that he had sexually assaulted a young boy. Hubbard sent Rosch to a treatment center, which later signed Rosch off. Hubbard then returned Fr. Rosch to active ministry without informing the priest’s new parishioners about Rosch’s past. 

In the obituary that Hubbard paid the PR firm to write for him, it was stated that “he had followed the mainstream church practice of referring offending priests for psychological treatment and returning them to ministry only when licensed health care professionals deemed it was safe to do so.”

“He had long believed in the process of rehabilitation and redemption but publicly acknowledged in retrospect that the policy was a mistake,” added the PR firm’s obituary. 

Hubbard’s funeral will take place on August 25. Readers are invited to pray for his soul.