Sunday, February 22, 2004

Message drew sister to priest (Fr John Minkler)

The circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Minkler are so strange and bizarre. I pray that the truth comes out soon. Please pray also for Fr. Minkler and his family.

Call prompted discovery of cleric who died amid Hubbard controversy
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer First published: Saturday, February 21, 2004
Before he died, a priest embroiled in the controversy surrounding Bishop Howard Hubbard arranged for his sister to find him, according to a police report obtained by the Times Union. Patricia Minkler told Watervliet police that she went to the 2319 Seventh St. home of her brother, the Rev. John Minkler, on Sunday after getting a call from another Catholic priest.

She found her brother on the kitchen floor, face-down on a blanket, and called police at about 1:48 p.m. for help with an "attempted suicide," according to the police report. Firefighters at the scene determined that he was dead, the report said.

Minkler had died sometime between 4:30 p.m. Feb. 13, and when his body was found.

Prescription pills were found near Minkler, Albany County Coroner Herman Thomas said. Thomas is awaiting the results of toxicology tests before ruling on the cause of death. He has not disclosed the nature of the medication.

The death came days after Minkler was publicly identified as the author of a 1995 letter to then-New York Archbishop John O'Connor that accused Hubbard of homosexual behavior and theological transgressions.

On Feb. 13, Minkler signed a statement for the Albany Diocese disavowing authorship of the letter.

Minkler left a note near his body, but its contents have not been disclosed by Thomas, who is conducting an investigation into the death. District Attorney Paul Clyne said the note probably will not be made public.

Patricia Minkler said the Rev. Edward Sipperly, a retired priest from Clifton Park, told her that he had received a message on his answering machine from John Minkler asking that his sister be called to "respond to his address with her keys to the residence because he is ill," according to the police report.

Sipperly did not know the date or time of the message from John Minkler. The police report does not state when Sipperly contacted the sister.

A man answering the telephone at Sipperly's home Friday told a reporter that Sipperly wasn't there and hung up immediately. Several other calls to the residence were not answered.

Attempts to reach Patricia Minkler for comment were unsuccessful.

The last known contact with Minkler was with the Rev. Joseph Wilson, a Queens priest, who said Minkler was very upset that being identified as the letter's author could ruin him.

Albany Diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb said Friday that Minkler told the diocese that Sipperly would help him with his duties as chaplain at the Stratton VA Medical Center.

Minkler was a chaplain there for 20 years, but VA spokeswoman Linda Blumenstock said Friday there is no record that Sipperly was a volunteer.

During the 1990s, Sipperly was pastor at St. Stanislaus Church in Amsterdam.

In 1986, he was bound, beaten and robbed while pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Green Island, where one of his assailants yanked a silver cross and chain from around his neck, spat in his face and said, "I hate your God, I hate your religion and I hate you."

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