One morning last spring, behind closed doors at the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese
headquarters, a 40-year-old man confronted the priest who had abused him repeatedly three
decades before. As Bishop Howard Hubbard looked on, the man, now a married father of two,
demanded an apology.
"Nobody's protecting you now. Beg for my forgiveness," he screamed. "Down on your knees,
down on your knees and beg. Beg!"
The Rev. David Bentley, now 60, spoke quietly. "I'll get down on my knees -- don't touch me," he
"I am asking you again, OK, you know, for you to forgive me," the priest said, according to a
recording of the meeting obtained by the Times Union.
The tape offers a rare window into the intensive therapy that the diocese has provided to victims
of sexual abuse who came forward during the past year. The meeting also illuminates the
church's counseling method, which is now at the center of a lawsuit the victim filed in December
in which the man claims Hubbard and others used his therapy as a way to manipulate him and
to prevent him from hiring an attorney.
In the meeting at the diocesan Pastoral Center, Hubbard and church therapist Sister Anne Bryan
Smollin sat silently as Bentley said he molested seven children, and the victim -- who asked that
only his first name, Curtis, be used in this story -- went on at length about his suicidal thoughts,
sexual dysfunction and vivid memories of the abuse he suffered in church rectories, including at
the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.
"You don't know what you did to me. It crushed me, and it still crushes me," Curtis told Bentley.
"You know I can't have sex. You know that. You know what that does to me?"
"I can't (expletive) live with myself. I want to die. I want to die all the time. I want to kill; I want to
kill people all the time. I want to kill," he said. "How am I supposed to deal with people on an
everyday basis with what I go though?"
Curtis' interrogation of his abusers was threaded with theological questions that underscore the
religious faith intertwined in his relationship with the priest.
"Do you think God forgives you for this? Do you really?" the victim asked.
"Do I think God forgives me?" Bentley said quietly.
"Yes, I think, there is, as the Bible says, no sin that God cannot forgive," the priest said.
However, he later said: "OK, this was kind of an unforgivable sin because I violated, OK, your
trust. I violated your trust."
At times Curtis read from notes he had prepared for the encounter with Bentley.
"Blasphemy is an act of disrespect or impiety toward something regarded as sacred. Is boyhood
sacred? Is manhood sacred before God? Is it?" he asked Bentley. "Are the filthy acts you
performed on me and the horrors and the shame they left me with blasphemous before God?
"They are," Bentley replied, almost inaudibly.
Bently, who was removed from ministry last year due to credible allegations of sexual abuse,
served as a principal at Albany's Vincentian Institute and later worked as a chaplain at Albany
Medical Center before leaving the Albany Diocese. His last assignment was at a small parish in
Bentley met Curtis at the Albany Home for Children and the priest sexually abused him between
1972 and 1979. Last summer, Hubbard quietly paid Curtis more than $225,000.
Bentley befriended Curtis, who was from a broken home, at age 10. During the next six years,
Bently would often take the boy on overnight stays at rectories, where they would eat dinner with
other clergy and watch television before going to bed, Curtis said.
In the recorded session, Bentley admitted that Curtis was the first boy he molested and talked
about the "agony" and remorse he felt.
"I think, most of the time, when those actions happened, I apologized to you. I said I'm sorry,
OK, you know, in the morning. Many times I said I'm sorry," Bentley said haltingly.
"You may see that this was something that I just -- boom -- did and got myself satisfied. That
wasn't it. I was in agony, my friend, you know, after I did that," said Bentley.
Curtis' emotional outbursts contrasted sharply with Bentley's restraint. The priest said he
suffered from "arrested sexual development" and that he was 32 before he ever molested anyone.
"It was under control and then it was like a dam bursting, that is the only way I can explain it,"
Curtis collapsed in tears upon learning he was the first victim, blaming himself for his own abuse.
Hubbard, who said little through most of the meeting, spoke up to console him, saying, "It wasn't
Curtis pressed Bentley about who else knew about their relationship. Bentley said he always
went to confession after his abuse, but a church law regarding the "confessional seal" prohibited
other priests from reporting the abuse.
Priests who heard Bentley's confession were "just as guilty," Curtis said.
"They couldn't have said anything about what you did in the past, but they could have put
somebody on notice. 'Look, I believe he may have a problem. Be careful with him. Make sure
he's careful,' " Curtis said.
Bentley told Curtis he voluntarily began therapy for his sexual problems about 1978, when a
counselor at the Pastoral Center sent him to a psychologist in Manhattan. He was told to
recount his sexual abuse of children into a tape recorder and then listen to it. "The purpose of
that was that, you know, in time, hopefully, OK, you know, I would develop, you know, an
aversion," he said.
Curtis has said he accompanied Bentley on trips to New York where the priest molested him
even as he was seeing a therapist.
Hubbard has repeatedly said he knew nothing about Bentley's problems with boys until 1986,
when someone outside the church contacted him with a complaint of sexual abuse. Bentley was
sent away for psychological treatment and returned to work as a chaplain at Albany Medical
Hubbard has also refused to say how many victims have come forward with complaints of abuse
and how many priests in active ministry remain under investigation. The Albany Diocese on
Thursday declined to comment on the therapy sessions, citing the lawsuit pending in state
Supreme Court in Albany and the reluctance to prejudice potential jurors.
Curtis said others in the room knew he was making a tape of the meeting using a microcassette
recorder in his shirt pocket.
Curtis first reported his abuse to the diocese in 1994, when he agreed to accept a $150,000
confidential settlement payment. He returned to the diocese in April, when he began intensive
therapy. He also began meeting frequently with Hubbard, who took an active interest in his
Last year, at the height of the church's national sex-abuse scandal, he pressed Hubbard and
others to help him identify other men he said abused him. In July, Hubbard acknowledged in a
letter to Curtis that Bentley was not the only person from the church who molested him.
The church gave Curtis a check for $75,000 in May and in August gave him an untraceable bank
check for $150,000 drawn on a Catholic Charities account, church officials have acknowledged.
In the May therapy session, Bentley sought to console Curtis, telling him, "You are still in very
high esteem in my life."
"I can perhaps meet with you again, if you wish, and explain, OK, more things, OK, about
myself. I'll be honest with you, I think you need closure, whenever it comes. And if it hasn't come
from me, then it will probably come on my deathbed," Bentley said.
Bishop Howard Hubbard in a meeting last spring told a man molested by priests in the 1970s that church
officials could provide more support and investigate his allegations more thoroughly if he did not have an
Hubbard met often in 2002 with the victim -- now a 40-year-old married father -- who had hired an attorney
and complained to the Albany Catholic diocese a decade ago about being abused by priests whose
names he never knew. The man contacted the church again last year -- this time without a lawyer --
seeking more information about the Rev. David Bentley and others who molested him.
"Back then you were represented by an attorney and I had -- there were certain ethical things that I was
not able to do that I can do now because you are not represented by an attorney," Hubbard said,
according to a recording of the June 2002 meeting obtained by the Times Union.
The recording, taped and provided by the victim, who asked that only his first name, Curtis, be used,
offers insight into the conversations between Hubbard and Curtis that are now at the center of a lawsuit.
Curtis claims Hubbard and other church officials tried to manipulate him and prevent him from hiring an
attorney last year.
In October, Curtis hired a new lawyer, John Aretakis, after he and Hubbard had a falling out over the
bishop's unwillingness to help him identify all the priests who abused him.
"What about these other priests that I have come to you with, bishop?" the man asked. "I came to you in
'93 and '94, bishop, with others and I felt it was just pushed under the rug," the man said.
"I hear what you're saying," the bishop responded, "You said something about others, but you didn't
indicate who they were. I had no point to act on that."
Hubbard met face-to-face with Curtis more than a dozen times last year when Curtis had no legal
counsel. During those meetings -- often attended by a church therapist, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin -- the
bishop helped Curtis recall times, dates and locations of his abuse, using that information to identify
other men who had molested him as a teenager, according to Curtis.
On the tape, Hubbard said he initially had been unable to speak extensively with Curtis and conduct the
same kind of investigation because Curtis had an attorney. He said in that situation he could be accused
of "tampering with the client."
Last April, the bishop recalled Bentley from his post in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and removed him from
active ministry, citing credible allegations of sexual abuse. Hubbard has said he knew nothing about
Bentley's problem with young boys until 1986, when someone outside the diocese contacted him about
a child the priest had allegedly molested.
At their June meeting, Hubbard stammered when Curtis asked him about how many other children
Bentley had molested.
"In a sense he (Bentley) told me that there were seven victims," Hubbard said.
"So you knew that, seven victims?" Curtis said abruptly. "Well, whatever, he had a number of victims. He
told me when other people came forward like, uhh, or whatever his name is, that, that he never victimized
him. So I, I, I didn't say seven definitely," Hubbard said.
The Albany diocese paid Curtis $150,000 in a confidential settlement agreement in 1994 and quietly paid
him another $75,000 this past May. Then in August, Curtis received $150,000 more. He filed a lawsuit in
His lawsuit echoes complaints heard nationwide that some dioceses have engaged in unethical therapy
methods to help to protect the church from potential lawsuits. Critics believe church therapy programs
involve conflicts of interest because the financial concerns of a diocese are sometimes at odds with the
needs of the victims they counsel.
Curtis said the tape of the June meeting was made with a micro cassette recorder in his shirt pocket. He
said Hubbard was aware of the tape and their conversation includes one reference to the recording of a
previous meeting. Curtis has said that he recorded the sessions as a way of holding church officials
accountable for the statements they made.
Last week, the Times Union reported excerpts from an extraordinary face-to-face confrontation between
Curtis and Bentley at the diocesan headquarters in May 2002, which church officials arranged and
The diocese issued a statement on Friday that said: "The tapes that the Times Union is reporting on
have not been authenticated or validated as to their accuracy, completeness, context or sequence."
Curtis' attorney declined comment, citing a warning by state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi on
Feb. 10 about making public statements that might prejudice potential jurors in a lawsuit.
The 10-minute recording of the June meeting offers a glimpse of how Hubbard handled one victim of
sexual abuse, meeting face-to-face and allowing him to share his stories, anger and frustration.
Hubbard met with Curtis just days before he went to Dallas, where he voiced his opposition to the policy
of zero-tolerance for pedophile priests that would be adopted there by the U.S. Conference of Catholic
"Think of what I went through -- and I know you do, bishop, I know you do," Curtis said. "But I want you
to take that to Dallas, take that to Dallas, take that with you and understand."
In Dallas, Hubbard was one of the only bishops who criticized the removal of all priests accused of
sexually abusing children, saying it was out of step with Christian principles of forgiveness.
Curtis wondered whether Hubbard would remain bishop after the Dallas conference and Hubbard agreed.
"Maybe, they might remove me," he said quietly.
During the meeting with Curtis and Hubbard, the church therapist, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, said little
while the bishop and her patient talked.
At one point, Curtis lashed out at the bishop for allowing Bentley to remain in active ministry despite the
allegations of sexual abuse.
"You're going to go before God, bishop. And you're going to answer for this guy. For keeping him. All of
you guys are going to answer for that, bishop," Curtis said.