ALBANY — Former Bishop Howard Hubbard on Friday denied allegations he sexually abused a minor in the 1990s while leading the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese but announced he planned to step back from public ministry.
Hubbard, who led the Capital Region diocese for over 35 years, was accused this week of sexually abusing a minor in the 1990s as a flood of new abuse allegations emerged in lawsuits filed under the state’s new Child Victims Act law.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Marsh Law Firm of White Plains, Clifton Park resident identified as P.R. claims to have been abused by the Rev. Paul Bondi at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ballston Spa and later sexually abused by Hubbard. The plaintiff alleges abuse multiple times by Bondi from the age of 12 to 15 and by Hubbard at age 16.
“They used their positions as priests to groom and to sexually abuse plaintiff,” the suit alleged.
In his first public statement since the allegations were levied earlier this week, Hubbard denied he ever abused anyone.
“With full and complete confidence, I can say this allegation is false,” Hubbard said in a statement released to the media Friday. “I have never sexually abused anyone in my life.”
A slew of other former area priests were named as alleged child abusers when dozens of plaintiffs stepped forward to sue for damages caused by the sexual abuse they claimed to have suffered as children. The allegations dated as far back as 1955 and as recently as 1998; some of the plaintiffs alleged abuse that occurred to them as young 6 and 7 years old.
In a statement the Albany diocese issued Wednesday, area church officials said they had reported the allegations against Hubbard to officials higher up the church hierarchy.
“It is critically important to remember that, like anyone else, Bishop Emeritus Hubbard enjoys the presumption of innocence, and we will withhold any judgment until all the facts are known and this case is resolved,” the diocese stated. “We take all allegations seriously and pray for all who come forward with allegations.”
Hubbard said stepping aside in a “voluntary leave of absence” was the “right thing to do” to assure the broader community that church leaders “are living in accord with the highest standards that our sacred ministry requires.” He also said he trusted in the internal church process and external process and was confident that he name ultimately will be cleared.
Hubbard, who in his emeritus position since stepping down as Bishop in 2014 has celebrated Mass and presided over weddings, baptisms, confirmations and funerals, said stepping back from his ministerial work will be extremely difficult.
“This is a profoundly painful step,” he said in the statement. “I have been a priest for 55 years. My ministry is my life.”