ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, Howard James Hubbard, 84, announced his full retirement from the ministry on Friday. Alongside his successful and historic career—when appointed in 1977, he became the youngest bishop in the U.S.—Bishop Emeritus Hubbard was accused of sexually abusing minors in seven lawsuits.

Hubbard had a stroke earlier this year, and his deposition in a case related to the alleged abuse was also released this year. He formally retired as bishop in 2014.

“I had hoped that in my retirement I might be able to continue to serve our community as a priest. I am not able to do so, however, because of a church policy that prohibits any priest accused of sexual abuse from functioning publicly as a priest, even if the allegations are false, as they are in my case,” Hubbard said in a statement released on Friday. “Despite the impact on me, I still believe this is a sound policy. I implemented it in the Albany Diocese and continue to support it as a necessary means to maintain and restore public confidence in our clergy. In my particular case, the effect of the policy has been to deprive me of the single greatest joy of my life, serving our community as a Catholic priest in my retirement years.”

According to the diocese, Hubbard, from Lansingburgh, was an associate pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Schenectady in his early priesthood. He was appointed Bishop of Albany when he was 38 years old, earning the nickname, “the boy bishop.” Hubbard submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis when he reached 75, as required. His 36-plus years as Bishop marked the longest tenure to date of any bishop in the history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

While the pain that I have felt as an individual falsely accused is great, it can never approach the devastation experienced by victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy or others in a position of authority in our society.

Howard Hubbard, retired bishop

According to AbuseLawsuit, Hubbard faced his seventh sexual abuse lawsuit in 2021. The law group also alleged that Hubbard and several other priests sexually abused minors and covered up child sex abuse committed by another priest. Denying all of the allegations against him, Hubbard said he will continue to defend himself.

Hubbard was deposed in 2021, and the transcript of that deposition was released in March, almost exactly 45 years after he became bishop. According to Jeff Anderson, an attorney for one of Hubbard’s accusers, “Hubbard’s testimony reveals decades of decadence, denial, and deception at the peril of so many innocent, trusting children, in his own words.”

Hubbard thanked the people of the diocese and the friendships he’s made through ministry. “In whatever time I have left on this Earth, I hope to be able to serve God and the people of our community as a layperson,” he said. “I hope and pray I will live long enough to see my name cleared once and for all.”

Current Bishop Edward Scharfenberger released the following statement: “Whatever considerations and circumstances may have led to this decision, most probably after a difficult process of discernment, we offer him our prayers and our hopes for happiness and well-being. This news may be shocking and painful for clergy and laypersons who know and love Bishop Hubbard and have appreciated his many years of ministry. I offer Bishop Hubbard my own prayers and fraternal assistance.”