Some Albany Diocese priests accused of sexual abuse have remained on active ministry in recent
months while church investigators conduct inquiries into whether new allegations are "credible" and
warrant suspension from pastoral duties, church officials acknowledged Monday.
Bishop Howard Hubbard would not say precisely how many clergy have been accused since June,
when six priests were formally removed. In each new case, he said, the priest did not admit the
allegations. Their cases have not been brought before the diocese's sexual misconduct panel for
review because the initial fact-finding by retired State Police Investigator Thomas Martin is not
complete, Hubbard said.
"The investigations are somewhat difficult at times because people that need to be interviewed are
sometimes not local or no longer even alive, and it takes some time," Hubbard said. "We want to
make sure we are fair to the victim and to the priest."
The bishop said he supports the "zero-tolerance" policy adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops, which calls for any priest facing a credible allegation to be removed from ministry pending
the determination of guilt or innocence by a church tribunal. If he determines the recent allegations
to be credible, Hubbard said, he will remove the priests from the ministry and make that decision
The new national policy on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church gives bishops some discretion to
determine what constitutes a "credible" allegation.
Initial inquiries to determine credibility should take "a matter of days," said William Burleigh,
a retired journalist who sits on the 12-member National Review Board, set up to monitor American
bishops' compliance with the new rules this year.
Hubbard said the diocese's Advisory Panel for Clergy Sexual Misconduct helps him to decide
whether or not to find an allegation credible and to remove a priest. The panel's nine members,
including two priests, two lawyers, two social workers, a psychologist, a state administrative law
judge and a retired psychiatric nurse, have met once a month since June, Hubbard said.
"They know from the very beginning what the allegations are, when it occurred and what is alleged
to have happened," Hubbard said. "If they feel for some reason that the process should be short-
circuited because that person is a danger, that could be their advice to me."
At a bishop's conference in Dallas in June, Hubbard was one of the few outspoken opponents of the
"zero-tolerance" policy. He advocated for a case-by-case review that would leave the door open for
known pedophile priests to remain active in the ministry.
After the policy was adopted, Hubbard removed six priests who had sexually abused children. The
14-county diocese also acknowledged it paid out $2.3 million during the last 20 years in secret
settlement agreements with victims of sexual abuse.
Attorney John Aretakis said he informed the diocese this fall of more clients who are leveling
allegations against at least two priests who remain on active ministry.
One case involved two brothers who said a priest sexually abused them in the 1970s. Contending
that the priest is "a present danger to his parish, its children and the community as a whole,"
Aretakis said he asked the church to either remove the priest or to notify his parish of the
investigation. Aretakis declined to name the priest but said he remains on active assignment.
New policies banning pedophile priests are only as strong as the bishops' commitment to enforce
them, said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
"For years, we have said that the policies are almost irrelevant," Clohessy said. "We can't assume
that decades of secrecy and cover-up will suddenly and dramatically end."
Church officials also said Monday that they would be updating the text of the sexual abuse policy
on the diocese's Web site. Until Monday, the policy listed ways that priests could be reassigned
after admitting to an incident of sexual abuse.
But Hubbard said the policy was outdated and mistakenly left online since June, when the zero-
tolerance policy was adopted.
"It's the changes and the norms approved in Dallas and amended in Washington that are operative
in the diocese right now," Hubbard said. "There is no reassignment policy at this point."