How to Bury a Disgraced Deceased Bishop?

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. So goes the ancient Latin aphorism: Speak no ill of the dead. But what of the dead who did so much ill that any speech at all would have to include it?

That’s the dilemma facing Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York. What should he say about Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard? Or perhaps he should say nothing?

Funeral for a Disgraced Bishop

It was announced on the feast of St. Pius X that a funeral Mass for Bishop Hubbard would be held at the parish of St. Pius X on Aug. 25. Bishop Scharfenberger will preside, as is customary for the funerals of retired bishops.

Bishop Hubbard died Aug. 19 at age 84. He had been bishop of Albany for 37 years, 1977 to 2014. In 2004, the diocese hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate claims that Bishop Hubbard had had homosexual liaisons in the 1970s. He was cleared. The charges may have been a case of mistaken identity.

His retirement years were marked by shame and scandal. He admitted to covering up sexual abuse cases, had multiple allegations of sexual abuse made against him — which he vigorously denied — and asked to be laicized last year so that he could marry. The Vatican denied his petition for laicization. Bishop Hubbard then announced on Aug. 1 that he had attempted marriage in a civil ceremony to Jennifer Barrie (now Hubbard). That meant an automatic suspension from priestly ministry. He died less than three weeks later.

What then to say about such a man? There are three main options.

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