Albany Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, who confessed to covering up clergy abuse, was accused of committing sexual abuse himself, and announced this month that he entered into a civil marriage with a woman, has died from a stroke at the age of 84, according to his publicist.
Bishop Hubbard made headlines last year after he announced that he asked the Vatican if he could return to the lay state, claiming he is not able to function publicly as a priest while under investigation for sexual abuse.
He said in an Aug. 1 statement that the Vatican denied his request and that he has “fallen in love with a wonderful woman who has helped and cared for me and who believes in me.”
A statement from the bishop’s publicist identified the woman Saturday as Jennifer Hubbard, whose maiden name is Barrie.
Following Bishop Hubbard’s announcement of his civil marriage, Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said Hubbard remained a bishop and that his “marriage” was invalid.
He added that Bishop Hubbard was “not permitted to represent himself as a priest or perform the sacraments in public,” adding that the announcement was “unexpected” and that “like many of you, I am just now beginning to process it.”
Bishop Scharfenberger called for prayer for Bishop Hubbard at the time.
“This is a challenging time for many, but we are not alone. Let us remember that through the turmoil, the one constant for all of us is the comforting presence of Jesus, who shepherds us with the promise of everlasting life,” Bishop Scharfenberger said.
Following the news of Bishop Hubbard’s death, Bishop Scharfenberger said: “The life of a priest is never about himself but for those whom he serves, to whom he is sent.”
“As we commend our brother, Howard Hubbard, to the God of all mercy, we pray also for all those who, throughout the course of his life, as priest, bishop, and friend, were inspired and encouraged along their own journey, especially those who received the sacraments through his ministry,” the Aug. 19 statement said.
“Priests are called to sanctify, to ‘make holy,’ to lift others up to God. 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,” he said.
“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,” Bishop Scharfenberger concluded.
Bishop Hubbard led the Diocese of Albany from 1977 to 2014.
In a 2021 article for the Times Union, Bishop Hubbard admitted to mishandling sexual abuse allegations against priests while he was bishop. He said the diocese did not notify law enforcement when certain allegations were made.
Bishop Hubbard defended his record dealing with abuse, writing “in the 1970s and 1980s, when an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was received, the common practice in the Albany Diocese and elsewhere was to remove the priest from ministry and send him for counseling and treatment.”
“Only when a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determined the priest was capable of returning to ministry without reoffending did we consider placing him back in ministry. While most priests who were so treated did not reoffend, it did not always work,” he said.
Bishop Hubbard wrote that it was a “mistake” to not notify the public or the parish when a priest was removed.
In that same article, he touted many improvements the diocese made in protecting children against sexual abuse, such as instituting a diocesan review board, hiring a victims’ assistance coordinator, creating a more rigorous application process for the seminary, and conducting background checks on diocesan staff and volunteers.
“While we never condoned, ignored, or took lightly sexual abuse of minors, we did not respond as quickly, as knowledgeably, and as compassionately as we should have, and for that, I am sincerely sorry,” he wrote.
At the time of his death, Bishop Hubbard faced a Vatican-ordered investigation into allegations that he committed sexual abuse in 1977, soon after his installation as bishop.
Bishop Hubbard also faced sexual misconduct allegations in 2004, which resulted in a diocesan-funded investigation.
An independent investigator, former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, issued a report clearing Bishop Hubbard of sexual misconduct allegations that he led a gay lifestyle, the New York Times reported.
Bishop Hubbard was ordained a priest of the Albany Diocese on Dec. 18, 1963. Pope Paul VI appointed him a bishop in 1977 at the age of 37.