Former Albany bishop will be investigated under ‘Vos estis’ norms

By Jonah McKeown for CNA

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. / Drew Proto via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, Mar 24, 2021 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- An anonymous plaintiff last week filed a lawsuit against former Albany bishop Howard Hubbard, alleging that Hubbard molested him in 1977, soon after his installation as bishop.

The diocese of Albany confirmed to CNA on Wednesday that Hubbard will be investigated according to Vos estis lux mundi, the procedure for investigating abuse accusations against bishops that Pope Francis promulgated in May 2019.

Also named in the suit are the diocese of Albany and St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Clifton Park, New York, north of the city.

Bishop Hubbard led the diocese from March 1977 until 2014, and was succeeded by current bishop Edward Scharfenberger.

The suit alleges that “in or about the summer of 1977,” when the alleged victim was 11 years old, Hubbard approached him in a storage room during a carnival being held at St. Edward parish, and sexually assaulted him.

Under Vos estis, bishops accused of sexual abuse are investigated by their Metropolitan, who in this case is Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.

“The canonical procedure known as Vos Estis has been put on hold until the civil cases have been concluded,” Mary DeTurris Poust, communications director for the diocese, said in a statement to CNA.

Bishop Hubbard has maintained that he has never abused a child and enjoys the presumption of innocence throughout the civil and canonical proceedings, DeTurris Poust added.

This is the seventh lawsuit to be brought against Bishop Hubbard under New York’s Child Victims Act, which set up a one-year window for clergy sex abuse lawsuits in cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has since extended the window for filing lawsuits until Aug. 14, due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hubbard was named in a lawsuit brought on the day the Child Victims Act came into force in 2019. That lawsuit accused him of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in the 1990s.

DeTurris Poust said Hubbard has not been in active ministry since the filing of the first lawsuit.

Several of New York’s dioceses have declared bankruptcy amid a flood of lawsuits following the Child Victims Acts coming into force.

The act allows for victims of child abuse to bring civil charges against their abuser until the age of 55; previously this had been 23. Criminal prosecutions can be brought up to the age of 28.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn is also currently being investigated under Vos estis.

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