Eight women who sued the Seattle Archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by former priest Michael Cody while he served in parishes in Whatcom and Skagit counties have reached a $9.1 million settlement with church officials, the archdiocese announced Wednesday night.
Cody, who died last year, served in various Catholic parishes in Western Washington during the 1960s and into the late 1970s and preyed on children for years, though church officials knew he was sick, according to documents from what’s known as Cody’s “secret file” in the archdiocese.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain said he hopes the multimillion-dollar settlement helps bring closure to the women and demonstrates the church’s commitment to address “the devastating impact of clergy sexual abuse, and to encourage victims to come forward.”
The Seattle Archdiocese in January published a list identifying 77 clergy members, including Michael Cody, who lived or worked in Western Washington and are known or believed to have sexually abused children.
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Of the eight women, Cody sexually abused six of them while he served at St. Charles Parish in Burlington, Skagit County, from 1968 to 1972. He abused the other two while he was assigned to Assumption Parish in Bellingham from 1972 to 1975, according to a statement from the women’s legal team.
“I deeply regret the abuse by Michael Cody against these victims and I hope this monetary settlement, and the counseling we have provided them, will bring healing and give them a measure of closure so they can move forward,” Sartain said.
“It also is my hope that these individuals will accept my offer to meet with me so I can offer them my personal apology.”
One of the attorneys for the women, Michael T. Pfau, said in a statement he believes the archdiocese settled because “it does not want the public to hear the full evidence that exists” against Cody and then-Archbishop Thomas Connolly, who was largely responsible for moving the priest to unsuspecting parishes.
Cody petitioned for removal from the priesthood in 1989, and the Catholic Church officially did so in 2005.
Money damages can never compensate them for the harm caused by their parish priest and the betrayal of a powerful institution they revered.
Attorney Rand Jack, who helped represent the eight women.
The Seattle Archdiocese in January published a list identifying 77 clergy members, including Cody, who lived or worked in Western Washington and are known or believed to have sexually abused children.
Since then, victims’ advocates, attorneys and even some prominent Catholics have called on Sartain to release the secret files documenting the abuse.
Portions of Cody’s decades-old file surfaced publicly last year in case filings for a lawsuit brought against the archdiocese by Sedro-Woolley resident Jeri Hubbard, who also was sexually abused by Cody, for years. The Seattle Archdiocese admitted liability and negligence in a $1.2 million settlement with her.
The same legal team that represented Hubbard represented the eight women.
“They [the eight women] have stood up for themselves and other victims of sexual abuse,” attorney Rand Jack said in the legal team’s statement. “Money damages can never compensate them for the harm caused by their parish priest and the betrayal of a powerful institution they revered.”
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.