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Albany Bishop will not defrock priests; ‘Formal and public removal from ministry is sufficient punishment’

.- Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY has decided that he will not laicize 13 priests in the diocese who were involved in the Church’s priestly sexual abuse scandal, saying that public removal from ministry is a just punishment. "I believe, he said, according to the Times-Union newspaper that, “after reflection and consultation with the misconduct board and my canonical advisers, that the formal and public removal from ministry is sufficient punishment for the priest and adequate protection for the community."

The bishop’s decision means that the priests can live out the remainder of their lives with diocesan pensions and health insurance in place.

Although some have criticized the bishop’s stance, he clarified that, "that's the route I have taken…in accordance with the charter [of the U.S. Bishops] and canonical laws of the church."

Bishop Hubbard, who has said he has reservations about certain aspects of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s zero tolerance, one-strike-you’re-out policy, said that, "If I found that anyone who had received this punishment had presented himself as a priest, publicly, then I still have the step of laicization. I haven't ruled out that option, and it is still available.”

So far, 20 priests of the Albany Diocese have been removed from public ministry and nine others are currently under investigation.

Fr. John Patrick Bertolucci is one of the 13 priests who had been publicly removed from ministry. Now living a life of what he calls prayer and reflection in his family home in New York’s Catskill mountains, he told the Times-Union that, "The most powerful form of penance I can do is to pray for the healing and reconciliation of any person I have sinned against and any person I have misled by my misconduct.”

"I believe that my bishop is wise in keeping open a line of communication with priests who have engaged in misconduct, rather than removing any canonical, jurisdictional oversight, which laicization would do."

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