By PAUL LIKOUDIS
“This is a time of taking stock for the bishop,” wrote The Albany Times-Union’s Paul Grondahl on September 30.
“Several honorary dinners and liturgies are being planned for [Bishop Howard] Hubbard. Masters of ceremony will strain to find new superlatives.”
On October 20, a crowd packed Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany to honor Bishop Hubbard as he celebrated the 50 years of his Ordination as a priest. Among those present were Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York and his predecessor, Edward Cardinal Egan.
On October 29, Siena College was slated to host an academic symposium in honor of Hubbard, including comments by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, now retired from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“The Siena symposium will bring together scholars to speak about central themes of his time as bishop: social justice, lay leadership, and interfaith dialogue,” wrote Grondahl. “‘Those are three things he has always believed in and he supports them in good times and in bad,’ said the Rev. Kenneth Paulli, chief of staff at Siena and an organizer of the symposium. ‘The bishop lives his faith and does not sway with the wind of popularity’.”
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In his 36 years as bishop of Albany — more than half of his lifetime — Howard Hubbard and his followers have presented him as the model Vatican II bishop, possessed of a vision of the Church and a steely determination to implement it regardless of any hurdles that might pop up.
For example, in the spring of 2004, when Hubbard was facing allegations from two former male prostitutes that they had had sexual relations with him, was waging a public relations campaign to protect his reputation, and had just retained a former federal prosecutor, Mary Jo White, to clear his name, he charged his critics with trying to derail Vatican II.
As he told Albany Associated Press reporter Michael Gormley:
“It is not just an attack upon myself. It is an agenda about the direction the Church is moving and people want to turn back the clock and renounce the strides we made in ecumenism and religious liberty and liturgical reform and go back to the Church of before the Second Vatican Council. And if they can take down a leader like myself, no matter what means are used, then that’s their goal. I’m not going to allow myself to be used that way. . . . I’m not going to hide.”
Mary Jo White cleared Hubbard of the allegations.
Now, according to the Times-Union’s Paul Grondahl, Hubbard’s reign as bishop “and his entire priesthood [were] shaped by the Second Vatican Council. . . . Hubbard presented a personal reflection on the Second Vatican Council in an hour-long scholarly lecture on September 4 for the St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry opening convocation.
“ ‘This set forth a radically different vision of the church and it became my blueprint for serving people,’ Hubbard said. He praised its more pastoral model, with a greater focus on helping the needy and less rigid structure of Church hierarchy. He said he embraced this new tone of collegiality and collaboration in the motto he took when he was made bishop: ‘Rejoice, we are God’s people.’
“He said he took to heart the council’s call to increase the role of lay people in the Church. ‘As bishops, we were no longer just the branch managers of the Church,’ Hubbard said. ‘It was an inclusive view of mission and ministry’. . . .
“Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, 76, who retired last year as bishop of the Rochester Diocese, was in the audience. The two met nearly 60 years ago as seminarians at Mater Christi. Clark is Hubbard’s longest and closest personal friend. ‘He’s very much the person I’ve known and began to admire all those years ago. He’s a kind, sensitive, and humble man with a sharp intellect,’ Clark said.
“Nobody can understand the strain of what Hubbard faced as well as Clark, who had to deal with similar issues in Rochester. During the height of the pedophile priest scandal and a 2004 investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Hubbard, the two spoke frequently on the phone. An extraordinarily intrusive investigation by former prosecutor Mary Jo White concluded with a 200-page report that found ‘no credible evidence’ to the allegations made by men about sexual encounters with the bishop and left a $2 million legal bill for the diocese.”
When Bishop Hubbard submits his resignation letter on October 31, his 75th birthday, he’ll be stepping down from a diocese that he has, in fact, remade in his own image.
Consider these diocesan statistics from three years, 1965 (Hubbard was ordained to the priesthood in 1963), 1990 (Hubbard had been bishop of Albany since 1977), and 2011:
In 1990, the estimated population within the Diocese of Albany was just over one million, of whom approximately 400,000 were Catholic. Today, the population has grown to just under 1,400,000, of whom 330,000 are Catholics.
Parishes: 207; 196; 127.
Diocesan priests: 426; 255; 106 (and 90 retired priests).
Elementary schools: 106; 44; 19.
High schools: 25; 7; 4.
Total number of students attending Catholic schools, K-12: 51,131; 12,261; 4,527.
Total number of religious brothers and sisters teaching: 1,595; 91; 8.
This sharp decline exemplifies the fears that members of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics in the Diocese of Albany expressed to this reporter for his ten-part Wanderer series “Agony in Albany.” The series was published over ten weeks beginning on March 7, 1991, in anticipation of his 15th anniversary as bishop.
The first installment was headlined: “Catholics Priests and Laity Fear Church Will Not Survive in Albany.”
The series first detailed Hubbard’s early career as an influential chancery operative in Albany — in 1973, he was named chairman of the Priests’ Personnel Board; in 1974, director of the Pastoral Planning Office; in 1976, a member of the Diocesan Board of Consultors, and, in November 1976, he was elected administrator of the diocese to replace Bishop Edwin Broderick — and his numerous, influential positions on various committees of the United States Catholic Conference/National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Part 1 of the series ended with this quotation from Catholic layman Tom Coffey: “There’s a lot you can say about the bishop’s leadership in Albany: the steady decline of the diocese, the schools and parishes closing….This is a Church that is dying. There is no vitality. That’s worrisome to many here.”
The Problem Of Dissent
Part 2 of “Agony in Albany” was on “The Problem of Dissent” in the diocese, and reported on Hubbard’s support for prominent American dissenters.
One of the first guests Hubbard invited to the diocese was then-Fr. Anthony Kosnick, editor of the notorious Human Sexuality. As “Agony in Albany” reported:
“The year Bishop Howard Hubbard was installed as bishop of Albany was a pivotal year for the Church in the United States. In 1977, the attacks on Pope Paul VI escalated during what would be the last full year of his embattled pontificate, and the Catholic Theological Society of America released the notorious Human Sexuality. Msgr. George Kelly [author of The Battle for the American Church] has described that work as ‘the climax of an orchestrated volley of shots against the Church’s sexual ethics.’
“The book, eventually condemned by the American bishops, sanctioned not only contraception, but sterilization, artificial insemination, mate-swapping, adultery, premarital intercourse, homosexuality, masturbation, patient-therapist sex, and even left the door open for bestiality. . . .
“The chairman of the CTSA committee that wrote the book was Fr. Anthony Kosnick, a professor at Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary in the Detroit Archdiocese. One of Bishop Howard Hubbard’s first revealing acts as bishop was to sanction Kosnick’s Albany appearance.
“There, Kosnick spoke in a public forum, granted an interview to The Evangelist (the diocesan newspaper), and addressed an assembly of priests. . . .
“When it was reported that Anthony Kosnick would speak in Albany, Coffey wrote a letter informing the bishop that it was highly unlikely that Fr. Kosnick would present the Church’s official teaching on sexuality.
“The bishop replied, ‘To my knowledge, there is no prohibition of workshops dealing with human sexuality. A workshop is not an official teaching medium for the Church in general or this diocese in particular.’
“During his visit to Albany, Kosnick defended the CTSA’s Human Sexuality, asserting that it was ‘a development of the Church’s teaching and is faithful to Church Tradition and Scriptures.’
“In an interview with The Evangelist, Kosnick said that his only regret in releasing the study was that he had not done it 20 years earlier.”
Among other dissenters Hubbard allowed into the diocese in his early years were: Sr. Margaret Farley, RSM; Fr. Charles Curran; Fr. Robert Nugent and Fr. Philip Keane (both homosexual propagandists); Fr. Gregory Baum; Fr. Matthew Fox, OP; the lesbian/witch Mary Hunt.
The Stones Will Cry Out
Part 3 of “Agony in Albany,” “Bishop Hubbard’s Toleration of Dissent,” detailed the large number of dissenters — priests, religious, and laity — in influential positions in the diocese, and its Catholic colleges.
That installment opened:
“In September 1987, when Howard Hubbard had been bishop for ten years, The Albany Times-Union and The Knickerbocker News published the results of a survey on what Catholics believe. The survey showed that Albany-area Catholics ‘don’t toe the papal line.’
“Sixteen percent agreed with the Pope on all issues; 16 percent disagreed with most of the Pope’s positions; and 66 percent agreed with some of his teachings and disagreed with others.
“Nearly 55 percent of Catholics polled approved of divorce and remarriage; 49 percent believed women should be ordained, 41 percent disapproved; almost 63 percent said priests should be allowed to marry; 25 percent believed abortion should remain legal; 72.4 percent approved of artificial birth control, and only 18 percent did not; 45 percent approved of sex between unmarried adults; and 43 percent disapproved of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
The “Agony in Albany” report then named prominent dissenters in Albany:
“On February 22, 1980, a statement titled Even the Stones Will Cry Out, protesting a ‘new pattern of intimidation which is appearing in our Church,’ was published in the National Catholic Reporter.
“The statement expressed the fear many dissenters had that Pope John Paul II was about to lower the boom on major dissenters such as Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff, and a host of others. It was signed by leading figures in the Albany Church.
“Among those from Albany who told the Pope that ‘we shall not go away’ was Mary Reed Newland, chairman of the Committee on Adult and Home Education for the Diocese of Albany, adviser for the Albany Curriculum sex education program [which was banned in two U.S. dioceses], a nationally known critic of Humanae Vitae, and a member of the National Committee for Human Sexuality.
“Fr. Thomas Berardi, then a judge on the Diocesan Tribunal and a counselor and professor of religious studies at the College of St. Rose, also signed the document. Fr. Berardi, who has signed almost every subsequent expression of dissent, such as The Love of Christ Impels Us (January 9, 1987) and The New York Times ad of February 28, 1990, defended Curran’s visit to the College of St. Rose. . . .
“Also signing were Dennis McDonald, a youth minister for the diocese and an adviser for the Albany sex education program, and ex-Sr. Judith Mazza, a feminist who was involved in parish ministry formation and was a leader in the recent women’s discussion groups for the Albany Women’s Commission. Though an advocate of women’s ordination and a frequent critic of Humanae Vitae, she is still active in religious education programs in the diocese.
“Other signers included Sr. Maria Mercurio, CSJ, catechist at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; Sr. Barbara DiTomaso, CSJ, of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Committee; Jack Simeone and, his wife Denise…; Fr. Michael Hogan, chaplain at Bishop Maginn School; Fr. Gary Gelfenbein, who was campus minister at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Fr. Thomas Phelan, also a campus minister and a member of the Diocesan Committee on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs and ‘Art and Architecture’; and Fr. Joseph Cotugno, now a campus minister at the State University at Albany.
“This list is by no means exhaustive, but it backs up a claim made by one priest that ‘dissenters get all the key positions in the diocese. It’s not that he just passively allows dissent to go on around him,’ he said, ‘but he willingly promotes people who are not loyal to the Magisterium. It’s so bad, you feel like you don’t belong to the same Church.
“ ‘Bishop Hubbard had a vocations director who used to tell people he didn’t believe in the physical Resurrection of Christ; his vocations co-director was an advocate of women’s ordination; the head of his tribunal is promoting “internal forum” solutions over ecclesiastical annulments’. . . .
“Dissent in Albany is not confined to Humanae Vitae, but covers a wide area, including married priests and women priests, liturgical norms, religious education and the sacraments, especially the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
“Bishop Hubbard’s typical response when confronted with dissent in Albany is, ‘I can only reiterate that I have said nothing which opposes, weakens, or otherwise brings into question the clear teaching of our Church’” — all evidence to the contrary!