While I was the publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine, I chronicled the plight of the Albany Diocese in Upstate, NY under the former leadership of now Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard. His stewardship of the diocese was a test case in the failures of the progressive policies of many churchmen during the seventies and eighties that left dioceses throughout the country beset by dwindling Mass attendance, little or no vocations to the priestly and religious life and sex scandals which metastasized into a full blown scandal in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Things were so awful under Hubbard and his Chancery staff that in 2013, Albany, NY was ranked as #1 among the most “post-Christian” cities in the U.S. by the Barna Group.
Enter in 2014, Bishop Edward B. Schafenberger, on the surface he had the perfect curriculum vitae that the more orthodox faithful were looking for to restore some of what had been lost under the Hubbard regime. “Monsignor Ed,” as his parishioners at St. Matthias in Queens called him, did stints in the diocesan curia there serving in many roles, culminating in 2013 when he was named Episcopal Vicar for Queens. The Brooklyn native seemed born for the role; his father was a salesman of church goods.
Upon his arrival in Albany, Bishop Scharfenberger burnished his credentials with the pro-life community by participating in lay initiatives like the Rosary Walk for Life that he did around the State Capital and joining them at local Planned Parenthoods for Prayer Vigils. These were important steps to take because Bishop Hubbard had all but ignored the pro-life community for years choosing rather to focus on social justice issues.
But in perusing the the Albany Diocese website, I was shocked to find one of the signature programs of Hubbard’s agenda is still in place: a needle exchange program called “Operation Safe Point” is still being administered under Albany’s Catholic Charities. Under the heading of Chronic Disease Management & HIV Help section of their website it states that they provide “syringe disposal, access/exchange services.”
Operation Safe Point was deemed “controversial” by the National Catholic Register in February 2010 and eminent canon lawyer Edward Peters weighed in extensively about the matter. Dr. Peters in his blog at the time, “In Light of the Law,” rightly stated,
“I think that one who supplies, without a physician’s prescription, needles/syringes (nb: devices with only one practical use) to people whom one reasonably believes will use those devices to inject illegal drugs into their own bodies and/or the bodies of others, encourages those people to practices that are gravely contrary to the moral law, rendering thereby, it seems to me, direct assistance to their commission of an objectively gravely evil act while intending precisely to help them accomplish that act. This conclusion is not contingent on whether the needles are clean, or are merely exchanged, or on any other accidental aspect of the program. The only question is whether giving a syringe to a drug abuser abets his or her injection of illegal drugs. If it does, then giving a drug user a needle formally cooperates with the specific evil of his or her taking those illegal drugs.” (Emphasis added)
The continuation of this program is even more baffling because Bishop Scharfenberger is a canon lawyer himself and should know better that the continuation of such a program causes scandal to his flock and hurts drug users with its false message of mercy.
In my past reporting of the situation in Albany, which is New York’s State Capitol, I learned that its main commerce is state government with all its machinations. Bishop Hubbard, whose episcopacy lasted from 1977-2014, learned well from Albany technocrats and built a vast bureaucracy similar to the bloated New York State government dedicated to spreading his progressive form of Catholicism.
This is the culture that Bishop Scharfenberger inherited, but by allowing this program to continue he is tacitly approving both the policy of providing syringes and his predecessor’s failed agenda. In fact, Bishop Hubbard is still ever present, having an office at the Chancery, he still writes occasionally for the diocesan newspaper, The Evangelist, which was a bullhorn for his progressive agenda and lobbies for liberal interest groups in the halls of the State Capitol.
Too often, we see this exact scenario being played out in dioceses across the nation. Liberal chanceries built by previous progressive bishops, perpetuating themselves and their constituencies groups at the determinant of faithful Catholics while the new bishops
‘go along to get along.’
However, many bishops have been named over the past several decades whose minds and spirituality were formed as priests under the historic pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Now that these priests have become bishops, it can only help them to be reminded that Saint John Paul II often said, “Be not afraid!” We encourage Bishop Scharfenberger to finally rid his diocese of Operation Safe Point, a scandalous remnant of failed leadership.
You are much too kind about the past Hubbard and Clarke Expedition.
As a person in the medical profession, I adopted an appropriate analogy for the needle exchange program: A suicidal person is holding a gun to their head ready to shoot. A progressive humanitarian stops and says to that person, “Wait, give me your gun and I will sterilize it for you first.”
I too am a nurse and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate analogy. Thank-you!
**Maybe** a simple look at this can show that the momentum of needle exchange program is very strong.
Noone has brought it to the forefront for serious discussion
Even a good leader/pastor needs someone to seriously over see the situation around him and report to him as to certain specific changes.
Is there on record any reports that this has been brought up, and discussed?
Maybe a formal news report would bring special attention? and at that a beginning for change will be imminent…
Just some thoughts…
We’ll keep Albany and Bishop Scharfenberger in our prayers!
Be well and God bless you
Regina, I know that the Bishop has been told about this program on several occasions. Otherwise, I would not have published the article.
All the best, Deal
Perhaps Bishop,Scharfenberger doesn’t know whom to trust so is making progress slowly. If he knew about the needle program and did nothing, that, of course, is very
What is true in Albany is true in Milwaukee as well. We are two bishops removed from Rembert Weakland. Almost the entire chancery staff is the same as when Weakland left. Dolan did nothing but reinforce the Weakland people and programs. Archbishop Listecki seems content with the Weakland people as well. The people pay and suffer.
“Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that
he become addicted to carnal pleasures”
St. Thomas Aquinas
Living in this diocese used to be very painful at times. Our current Bishop has been doing a wonderful job in many ways. Are things perfect here? No, they are not, but we have come a long ways and I have hope for the future.
Let’s be patient with the new bishop. He has a monumental task ahead of him if he is actually going to do what St John Paul would want. I grew up under Hubbard in Albany. A wonderful place to live back then, but liberal politics and ideology ruined the state financially and spiritually both inside the church and around. Hubbard dismantled the church with his buddy in Rochester. John Paul should have removed Hubbard decades ago. So many beautiful old historic churches empty, being sold off or filled with people who think it’s the Catholic Church when it’s not. I pain for my home diocese. I grew up in the most liberal of dioceses and now am blessed to live inside the diocese of Arlington. Thank you JP II for giving me hope again. And btw we need to end the “war” in drugs and end prohibition so we can all start to understand the health and wellness benefits of cannabis. And of course the church shouldn’t be involved in needle exchanges.
As a pharmacist, I refuse to dispense needles without a prescription although it is ‘legal’ to do so.
Bravo, Greg. I too grew up in the Albany diocese and am now blessed as well to be a member of the Arlington diocese in VA. I had no idea exactly how much I was not catechized while growing up in the Albany until I came down here, and thank God I did. I also agree that Bishop Scharfenberger has a momentous task ahead of him to clean up the mess that Bishop Hubbard left him. He needs our prayers and support, because he’s not going to get much of it in that area.
By the way, Mr. Hudson, I love your conversion testimony! I’ve listened to it several times!
Thank you for saying so, Chris.
I was. Born in Albany living here all my 79 years and nearby area as a born and bred Catholic thru the system.. All I know. Hubbard has been a positive help personally whereby bishop S has done nothing but be a snub. Ooh well…. It will all come out in eternity btw anyone know of sanctuary House…..thought not. It was founded here with the ok of Hubbarrd…thanks. Howard !
Maybe the Bishop hasn’t gotten around to that problem yet. Changes are not easy, and people tend to be impatient.
I’ve met Bishop Scharfenberger several times. He’s going to be a great bishop for Albany. Please cut him some slack. This new Bishop may not have gotten rid of a program that you disagree with, but I can think of worse things. And maybe he’s dealing with those worse things. And maybe he’s chosen to give priority to direct evangelization in a place that you yourself have pointed out needs it perhaps more than anywhere else. To that end, did you know that he just consecrated the entire diocese of Albany to Jesus through Mary on April 4 using a 33 day preparation and that he encouraged everyone in the diocese to join him? Hundreds if not thousands took him up on it, and I’ve heard it has been a source of renewal to many in the diocese. Also, I applaud him for being gracious and welcoming to his predecessor. Since when is that a fault? Don’t worry: Sharfenberger is his own man, a good man who can be kind to everyone, even to those with whom he might disagree. And you know what? That’s not a sign of weakness but of the Gospel. That’s not a mark of compromise but of success. That’s not a recipe for disaster but for authentic renewal. Let’s support this promising new bishop with our prayers and our words. After all, as you pointed out, he’s got quite a task ahead of him. May Our Lady guide him, and may God bless him.
“Scharfenberger” is German for “disappointment.”
“Fr. Michael,” above, asks that we give Bishop Scharfenberger a pass because, among other things, he’s “gracious and welcoming to his predecessor.” No one suggested that Bishop Scharfenberger go out of his way to be rude to Bishop Hubbard. Rather, faithful Catholics expected Bishop Scharfenberger to end those policies, programs, and liturgical practices of Bishop Hubbard that were in conflict with the established teachings and practices of the universal church. Thus far, this new bishop has failed to do so.
“Fr. Michael,” I’ve met the Bishop, too. And, I’m disappointed.
We continue to pray that he stop playing nice with Bishop Hubbard and his cronies (most of whom are still in positions of influence at the Pastoral Center) and make Albany Catholic again.
First off the Good Bishop needs to throw that Hubbard out on his ear an never listen to him again or he will be drug to Hell with Hubbard,people think that God is nothing but Mercy which He is be God is a Just God too,look at all the corrupt Bishops in the U.S that is why there are no vocations,because most Bishops in the U.S are horrible,when you see a good orthodox Bishop like my Bishop in Ft Worth Tx we can good vocations an they keep coming,we had a Bishop like Hubbard here for a long time an the vocations we dry as the Mojavi Desert an now we have had a Bishop change God has sent plenty of rain to our desert an the vocations are here Thanks Be to God,just goes to show if you have a good orthodox Bishop God rewards him with vocations,but if you have a corrupt good for nothing social justice Bishop God takes away the vocations,Hubbard should never be allowed around another chancery,Saint Teresa of Spain said Hell was littered with Bishops so keep Bishop Hubbard in your prayers because with out a Mercifully God Bishop Hubbard with all the damage he done to Albany an with all the people he ran away from Jesus’s Holy Catholic Church Bishop Hubbard deserves nothing more than to be Damned to Hell for all eternity.
I am posting this even though I disapprove of anyone wishing anyone else to be “Damned to Hell for all eternity.”
I recently saw a photo of Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Sharfenburger standing next to a liberal, pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ democrat at the Capitol in Albany. They had their arms around him and were smiling widely. I believe it was in the diocesan publication you mentioned – The Evangelist. It was utterly nauseating.