The 13 nieces and nephews of Albany Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard, who died last week, are condemning Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger for what they said was a “detestable” homily that he gave on Friday at the former bishop’s funeral Mass.
During the muted, 17-minute homily that Scharfenberger delivered at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville, he sidestepped highlighting details of the 84-year-old Hubbard’s decades of service. His decision to avoid heaping accolades on the deceased bishop may have been as a result of the controversies that have engulfed Hubbard over the past two decades, as well as his alienation from the diocese following his retirement nine years ago.
Those controversies have included Hubbard’s decision to get married last month after the Vatican had rejected his request to be removed from the priesthood; his admissions that he and the church had mishandled clergy sex abuse by secretly shuffling accused priests into treatment centers and between parishes, and allegations leveled against him by 11 men and women who accused him of sexually abusing them as children — accusations he denied.
The statement from Hubbard’s nieces and nephews, many who live in the Capital Region, noted that he had publicly acknowledged and apologized for his handling of sexual abuse cases by priests and others. But they said that should not have overshadowed his accomplishments and advocacy that began more than a decade before he was appointed bishop of the 14-county diocese in 1977 at the age of 38.
“As a native son, Father Howard gave six decades of his life to God and the church, and he touched thousands of the local faithful along the way, and there was not a single mention of this unparalleled service,” the statement from the family reads.
The nieces and nephews — the children of Hubbard’s two sisters — said Scharfenberger’s homily caused some parishioners to appear to avoid him when receiving communion at the ceremony, and that they saw a few others leave the service early. Their statement said that when they confronted Scharfenberger after the Mass and “asked for an explanation about his misguided homily, the current bishop replied simply, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ When pushed further, he repeated the same phrase, turned, and scurried off, demonstrating none of the courage of his predecessor to confront the difficulties of real people.”
“The current bishop’s intentional failure to address Father Howard’s servitude over six decades was detestable. Father Howard did nothing less than reestablish the moral standing of the local church during his leadership, and he deserved so much better.”