NEW YORK – At the funeral Mass for Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany said that there is “much to be celebrated,” from Hubbard’s life, while also acknowledging that his predecessor “was not an uncontroversial figure at times.”
Scharfenberger made the comments during his homily at the funeral Mass, held at the parish of St. Pius X in the diocese on Aug. 25. Throughout his approximately 17-minute address, Scharfenberger kept his mentions of Hubbard brief, instead highlighting the pure intentions priests have to serve, including those who fall victim to “their own sinfulness and brokenness.”
“There will be many, many times, as we say, to celebrate the life of the decedent, and [there] is much to be celebrated, and much to be contemplated on, even as we recognize by no stretch of the imagination was Bishop Hubbard … not an uncontroversial figure at times,” Scharfenberger said. “But then again, I know no priest that has not at times been a source of great hope and blessing.”
“Make no mistake about it, priests are human beings. They are broken, and they are sinful just like you and me, and sometimes, unfortunately, their own sinfulness and brokenness can get in the way of what they really want to do, which is to lead souls to the lord,” he continued.
“If you have memories that, wherever they fall, good and bad, the important thing is we recognize the call of every priest is to sanctify, to lift up, to bring us all to see the loving mercy of God that leads us exactly where we are,” he said.
Hubbard died on Aug. 19 from a massive stroke at the age of 84. Hubbard led New York’s capital diocese of Albany from 1977-2014. Over his almost four decades at the helm of the diocese, he was known as a champion of social justice causes, but his retirement years were rife with controversies.
At the time of his death Hubbard had seven civil sexual abuse complaints pending against him in New York. He has denied them all. However, he has admitted to concealing accusations of abuse by priests when he was in leadership of the Albany diocese.
Last fall, while suspended from ministry pending the resolution of the civil claims, Hubbard petitioned the Vatican for voluntary laicization, but was told to wait until the lawsuits were resolved. He then said that had fallen in love with a woman, and, at the beginning of August, married the woman in a civil ceremony in New York.
Another focus of Scharfenberger’s homily at the funeral Mass was the hope Christians should carry with them. He stated the theme of the reflection was “not so much the past, but the present and the future.”
“Each and every one of us, we open our hearts to God, in whatever way we may address God, whether it’s through our own Catholic Christian theology, or other ways in which we understand God, that we don’t forget one thing, that we’re made for love, and we’re made for our brothers and sisters,” Scharfenberger said. “There’s a lot in this world to condemn … but I’d rather choose the way of hope than despair.”
“In fact, I’ll go as far as to say there’s probably nothing more diabolical, more satanic, than the temptation to despair, to give up,” Scharfenberger continued. “God never gives up on any of us. I invite you to join me in my belief, that hope is what is worth living for, and for those of us who believe in Jesus, to hang on to the cross.”
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