Established in 1847, the Diocese of Albany encompasses the 14 counties in Eastern New York. Since its inception, the diocese has had 10 bishops. Howard Hubbard had the longest tenure (1977-2014) and was the youngest priest to be named a bishop at the time of his ordination in 1977.
Prior to becoming a bishop, Hubbard served as a self-styled “street priest” founding the House of Hope, a drug rehabilitation center. In 2004, two men came forward to accuse Hubbard of having a homosexual relationship with them in the 1970’s. In the midst of the controversy, Hubbard admitted to keeping four priests in active ministry after sexual abuse allegations had been lodged against them.
There are two lists of priests who’ve been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors-one compiled by Bishop Accountability which lists 63 priests and the more recent one published last fall (2018) which lists 42 priests. One of the most notorious of those priests is Fr. Gary Mercure who was ordained in 1974, three years prior to Bishop Hubbard’s episcopal ordination.
Criminal and civil investigations revealed that internal church documents concerning Mercure revealed that the priest was actively abusing young boys and teenagers since the late 1970’s. In addition to his seven parish assignments, Mercure was campus minister at Adirondack Community College for at least 17 years (1982-1999), and was on a diocesan personnel committee concerned with Ongoing Formation and Continuing Education for Priests (2005-2008). When he was promoted to pastor at two Troy churches on the retirement of the previous pastors, Mercure was also given a three-month sabbatical to the North American College in Rome in fall 2000.
Mercure’s 2000 promotion in Troy was a restoration of the pastor status he lost in 1995, when he was demoted from pastor and principal at St. Mary’s in Glens Falls and was transferred to a junior position at St. Mary’s in Clinton Heights. This demotion in 1995 presumably resulted from the allegations made by John Watkins.
As part of the transfer from Glens Falls to Clinton Heights, the Vice Chancellor of the Albany diocese, Rev. Martin Fisher, was moved into St. Mary’s in Glens Falls as pastor, presumably to do damage control.
Mercure was placed on paid leave (announced on 1/19/08), after the Albany diocese received on 1/11/08 an allegation that Mercure had sexually abused a boy at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Queensbury NY in the mid-1980s. On 1/28/08, four other men came forward, two more from the Queensbury parish, and two from St. Teresa of Avila parish in Albany who alleged abuse in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then on 5/23/08, John Watkins filed suit alleging that as a vulnerable adult, he had come to Mercure for counseling help regarding earlier sexual abuse, and had been abused by Mercure in turn. Watkins also alleged that Mercure discussed with him the priest’s sexual interest in children, and gave him pornographic photographs. Watkins claimed that he apprised the diocese of all this in 1994 and 2000. On 8/15/08, the diocese announced that Mercure had been removed from ministry for the first Queensbury allegation because there “were reasonable grounds to believe he sexually abused a minor … Subsequently, other people made similar allegations.” Mercure has not been laicized or defrocked, which are the technical and popular terms respectively for being “reduced to the lay state” by the Vatican. He is still a priest but is not in ministry.
No district attorney within the boundaries of the Albany diocese has ever convened a grand jury to broadly probe the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse by priests or other employees dating back decades.
Another Albany priest, Fr. David Bentley, who was ordained in 1975 was shuffled around to different parishes in different states after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced. In 1986, Bentley admitted to the sexual abuse of a boy but was never removed from ministry until 2002. In the intervening years, he continued to abuse young boys.
A seminary classmate of Bishop Hubbard, Fr. John Fitzpatrick was accused of abusing a young boy in a 1993 anonymous letter. Fitzpatrick was sent to the Paraclete Fathers in New Mexico for treatment and allowed to work in the diocesan chancery until 1996 when more allegations surfaced.
Fr. Alan Jupin was ordained a priest in 1962 for the Diocese of Albany. At least five men have come forward to accuse Jupin of sexual abuse, including rape, during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The accusers, who came forward separately and over the course of two decades, related that Jupin would throw alcohol-fueled sex parties at his apartment and that Jupin would share the boys with other priests. When the Diocese was confronted with the allegations, it initially suspended him and then reinstated him after the Review Board found no credible evidence of abuse.
The Diocese of Albany has not received the same media scrutiny as some of the other New York dioceses but the tales of sexual abuse and the numbers of priests accused make it evident that Albany was a diocese that allowed sexual predators to roam freely and without fear of criminal prosecution or canonical suspension, at least during the tenure of Bishop Howard Hubbard.