From ................ National Catholic Reporter

December 20, 1996

page 7

ALBANY BISHOP DEFENDS RIGHT TO SPEAK OUT

By FRANCIS W. RODGERS Special to the NCR

ALBANY, N.Y.—Bishop Howard J. Hubbard was given a front-page Sunday sermon in the Dec. 1 Albany 'Times Union' by a newspaper columnist who vigorously objected to the position taken by the bishop and six other religious leaders on welfare reform.

Hubbard and the others, in a Nov. 26 news conference at the state capitol, urged Gov. George Pataki to apply for a federal waiver on welfare reform laws that would reduce food stamps for the poor.

The columnist was inclusive in his critique. He would prefer a ban on clergy mixing religion and politics "whether we're talking about clergy calling for a more charitable stance toward the poor, for a ban on abortions, for prayer in schools or for the Joan of Arc-style public burning of homosexuals. I don't care whether you're talking about Dan Berrigan or Jerry Falwell. If you don't pay, you shouldn't try to play."

Hubbard, bishop of Albany for the past 19 years, responded Dec. 4 in the paper's op-ed section.

Hubbard also noted that religious "pay taxes on [their] incomes and on a bevy of other transactions that are assessed by government."

Lynch sarcastically relegated the clerics' involvement to warmed-over 1960s sentiment. "It was the sort of political spectacle that warms the hearts of people who hoard old Joan Baez albums. Here was the activist, left-leaning clergy beating up on the Republicans, whose concern for the poor these days seems limited to having the sidewalks swept so the homeless can enjoy clean beds," he wrote.

Hubbard, however, said the

Lynch ended his column asking,

In concluding his response, Hubbard wrote:

Lynch's attack on the bishop was unusual, since Hubbard has not been a controversial figure here. On the contrary, he has been fairly popular in civic circles.

The former street priest was working with the poor in Albany before being named bishop. His has been a moderate administration, but he has regularly voiced opinions on public matters. An outspoken critic of abortion, he also led an unsuccessful fight last year against the restoration of the death penalty in New York. The legislature passed the measure and Pataki, a Republican and a [Roman] Catholic, signed it.

Prior to the last election, Hubbard addressed an executive session of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on the dangers of the Christian Coalition. He was recently named to serve on the 40-member National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, based in Chicago.

Dan Lynch is a former editor of the Hearst 'Times Union.' His columns usually are on politics, state government and local issues.

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