15 August 2023, The Tablet

Retired Albany bishop marries without Vatican permission

The current Bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger, said that the Church does not recognise the marriage as valid.

Retired Albany bishop marries without Vatican permission

Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard’s request to leave the priesthood had been refused by the Vatican.
Youtube screenshot / WTEN

The retired Bishop of Albany, New York has been married in a civil ceremony after the Vatican refused his request for laicisation.

Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, 84, was removed from active ministry in 2019 after a man alleged he had been abuse while still a boy by Hubbard, an allegation Hubbard vigorously denies.

“With full and complete confidence, I can say this allegation is false,” Hubbard said at the time. “I have never sexually abused anyone in my life. I have trust in the canonical and civil legal processes and believe my name will be cleared in due course.”

Facing a lengthy investigative process, however, Hubbard decided not to wait.

“I could be 91 or 92 before these legal matters are concluded,” Hubbard said. “In the meantime, I have fallen in love with a wonderful woman who has helped and cared for me and who believes in me.”

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Hubbard’s successor, said that the Church does not recognise Hubbard’s marriage as valid.

“He remains a retired bishop of the Roman Catholic Church and therefore cannot enter into marriage,” Scharfenberger said, adding that he was still processing the “unexpected news”.

Hubbard was the youngest bishop in the country when he was consecrated in 1977 aged 39 and he went on to serve in key leadership roles in the US bishops’ conference.

He was well-regarded for his intellect and his commitment to the poor, epitomising the ideals of episcopal leadership in the early years after Vatican II – engaged in social justice issues, active in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues, and committed to Church reforms. He retired as bishop in 2014.

Albany, like many dioceses, is going through bankruptcy proceedings after New York lifted the statute of limitations on child sex abuse allegations.

Bishop Scharfenberger turned 75 in May and submitted his resignation, but it has not been accepted.

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