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By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 18, 2004

Albany priest Louis Douglas was given the green light to return to ministry. At least two gals are not happy:

Albany residents Marsha Preusser and Trisha Brace went public Wednesday with details of a meeting they had with Hubbard in 1993 about Douglas, who was recently cleared by the Albany Diocesan Review Board of all sexual abuse allegations with minors. Both women claim Hubbard told them about an incident that occurred in the 1960s in which Douglas allegedly had two children undress and masturbate in front of him, but did not touch them. ...

The women also say Hubbard, who became bishop in the mid-'70s, "explained away" the incident by allegedly stating that Douglas did it to make the children feel more comfortable with their sexuality.

It's not easy to visualize the concrete situation here: Hubbard, in 1993, relates a grossly perverse act committed in the 1960s by Douglas, well before Hubbard was made bishop in 1977. How would Hubbard have learned of Douglas's antics, and under what circumstances would he have been prompted to mention them to Preusser and Brace? As often, one's initial reaction to such accusations is somewhat skeptical. But then comes the Diocese's response.

Diocese spokesperson Ken Goldfarb admitted the meeting between the women and Hubbard did occur, but said their description of what happened was not accurate. ... "Bishop Hubbard did not make the statement attributed to him today," said a diocese release." Goldfarb declined to say specifically what transpired in the "rumored" incident, but he did say it was investigated and "no sexual abuse took place."

"I'm not going into details of what happened," said Goldfarb. Goldfarb also declined to answer questions about whether Douglas was ever sent to Mexico for psychological treatment related to pedophilia.

Well, why can't he answer the questions? They're entirely pertinent to the case at issue. If Hubbard's memory is good enough to gainsay the women's claim, what reason could there be for not giving a full account? Since whatever he said to the two women wasn't confidential at the time (or ceased to be confidential by his saying it), there's no good reason for not setting us straight. Did Douglas go off for therapy or not? If so, what was the incident or condition that prompted it? Post-Geoghan, the "I'm not going into details" line just doesn't cut it. If bishops continue to play their cards face down, the best they can ask from us is patience. Not trust.

I can't claim to be well-disposed to Hubbard, whom I think to be one of the worst U.S. bishops generally and one of the most irresponsibly gay-friendly in particular. That said, I don't think every grotesquerie attributed to him is necessarily true. Yet these borderline situations are going to multiply, and Hubbard and other bishops of the Stonewall school won't be able to cope. That means they will effectively govern smaller and smaller bands of ideologues in their dioceses as increasingly heavy demands are made on increasingly weakened trust.

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2004 9:01 PM ET USA

    Oh, we won't have to wait too long on that. Most bishops are pretty much the leaders of a small band of chancery employees financed by a steadily decreasing annual appeal and a few wealthy donors. They imagine they've locked the rest of us out when, in reality, they've locked themselves in. The rest of us go on because, when you get right down to it, the only time we might see the bishop is for a confirmation breeze-by. The bishop inhabits relevance limbo--never quite irrelevant, but...

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Mar. 18, 2004 6:58 PM ET USA

    Tell me again. I forget. What DOES it take to get the pope's attention and get a bishop fired?

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