Bishop Howard Hubbard's legacy: pastoral care is key

Posted at: 04/10/2014 6:39 PM
Updated at: 04/10/2014 6:41 PM
By: Benita Zahn

"Visiting the sick, celebrating sacrament, perhaps visiting prisons," is what the Rev. Kenneth Doyle from the Parish of Mater Christi in Albany said Bishop Howard Hubbard will be doing now. He has known Hubbard for years and serves as Chancellor for Public Information for the diocese. He expects the Bishop will maintain a small office at the Chancery building and be kept very busy and demand as a speaker across the country.

"He's known as a national authority on such things as ecumenical work on collaborative ministry, shared ministry with the faithful," Doyle said.

His ecumenical work goes back to 1977 when he invited local rabbis to participate in his installation as head of the Albany Diocese. The Catholic-Jewish dialogue flourished during his tenure as bishop with missions to Israel and Rome and the Catholic-Jewish group that met for more than 20 years.

But it would take all of the Bishop's communicating skills to navigate another issue during his tenure. Churches and Catholic schools closed as the number of faithful diminished and fewer men entered the priesthood.

There would be an even more daunting challenge -- the priest sex scandal that threatened the bishop. In 2004, independent investigators cleared him of allegations of sexual misconduct. In March 2011 the bishop placed three retired priests on administrative leave and removed another from the ministry after receiving allegations of child sexual abuse.

He also made headlines when that same year when he said he would not deny communion to Gov. Cuomo as some pressed because the governor supports same-sex marriage, abortion rights and lives with his girlfriend. Hubbard said those matters are between a communicant and their pastor as with those who aren't officials.

As he retires there have been many tributes, recognizing his dedication to social justice, as Doyle expects he'll continue in that vein.

"He will be in fine health and he will continue working as a pastor and do the pastoral things that he loves doing," Doyle said.

And of course, carving out some time for his Boston Red Sox.