This is extraordinary, via The Evangelist newspaper:
Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany has asked the Vatican on Nov. 18 to be returned “to the lay state.”
“I am 84 years of age and fully retired from ministry. I had hoped that in my retirement I might be able to continue to serve our community as a priest. I am not able to do so, however, because of a church policy that prohibits any priest accused of sexual abuse from functioning publicly as a priest, even if the allegations are false, as they are in my case,” Bishop Hubbard said in statement released to the media by Behan Communications. “Despite the impact on me, I still believe this is a sound policy. I implemented it in the Albany Diocese and continue to support it as a necessary means to maintain and restore public confidence in our clergy. In my particular case, the effect of the policy has been to deprive me of the single greatest joy of my life – serving our community as a Catholic priest in my retirement years.
“Recently, I asked the Vatican for relief from my obligations as a priest and permission to return to the lay state. In whatever time I have left on this Earth, I hope to be able to serve God and the people of our community as a lay person. I also will continue to vigorously defend myself against the allegations against me. Resolution of these civil cases takes a very long time. I hope and pray I will live long enough to see my name cleared once and for all.
“Serving our Church and the people of the Albany Diocese has been the greatest blessing of my life. My heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude to my brother priests and dear religious, and the lay people, community leaders, and people of other religious traditions with whom I worked in 60 years of ministry. The kindness, friendship and encouragement they extended to me remains a wonderful, sustaining grace and a blessing that I appreciate beyond all measure. They will be in my prayers forever.
“While the pain that I have felt as an individual falsely accused is great, it can never approach the devastation experienced by victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy or others in a position of authority in our society. I also continue to pray daily for the children, adults and families who have suffered that they will experience healing and reconciliation.”
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger offered “prayers” for Bishop Hubbard in a statement released by the Diocese of Albany.