Seattle Archdiocese settles 8 abuse cases for $9 million

Associated Press/March 23, 2016

The Seattle Archdiocese will pay just over $9 million to eight women who were sexually abused as children by a former priest in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

The abuse occurred between 1968 and 1974 at churches in Burlington, La Conner, Swinomish and Bellingham, according to a news release from the archdiocese.

Lawyers for the women said in a news release Wednesday they hope the resolution will be part of the healing process.

"I feel privileged to have helped represent these women and to have experienced their courage and determination," attorney Rand Jack of Bellingham said. "They have stood up for themselves and other victims of sexual abuse."

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a statement Wednesday he deeply regrets the abuse by Michael Cody, a former priest who died last year.

"Our first priority is the protection of children and healing for past victims," Sartain said. "It is my firm commitment to build on the good efforts of the past and continue to take steps that will truly help victims of clergy sexual abuse to heal. This $9 million settlement demonstrates our ongoing commitment to acknowledge and address the devastating impact of clergy sexual abuse, and to encourage victims to come forward."

Cody has been named in at least one other lawsuit.

The Seattle Archdiocese agreed in May 2015 to pay $1.2 million to a Sedro-Woolley woman who said she was molested by Cody in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Evidence presented during trial showed that in 1962, the Seattle archbishop at the time received a letter from a psychiatrist diagnosing Cody as a pedophile who had sexually abused young girls.

Evidence also showed the archbishop had received warning letters from priests before Cody was transferred from King County to Skagit County. The Archdiocese settled the day before the jury was scheduled to begin deliberations.

"The evidence regarding Father Cody is overwhelming, and I don't think the Archdiocese wants more bad publicity," said Michael T. Pfau, a Seattle attorney for the women in the case. "The direct involvement of former Archbishop Thomas Connelly in placing this pedophile in parishes with full knowledge of his danger to children is truly disturbing."

The archdiocese says Cody was a priest in "a number of parishes in Western Washington," while lawyers for the women said Cody also worked in four Seattle churches and one in Auburn.

Cody died last year. He hadn't served as a priest since 1979 and was defrocked in 2005.

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