The university’s board of trustees approved removing Thomas Connolly’s name from its athletics complex and renaming it “Redhawk Center” because of Connolly’s failure to act on a known pedophile priest.
Seattle University will remove the name of the late Archbishop Thomas Connolly from its athletics and recreation center because of his role in covering up for a known pedophile priest for years beginning in the 1960s, the university announced Friday.
The name change will take effect immediately, a spokesman for the university said Friday. The sports and recreation complex for the school, which is not directly affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle, has been named in honor of Connolly since 1969. The retired archbishop died in 1991.
The Jesuit university’s board of trustees approved removing Connolly’s name from its athletics complex on Thursday, and renaming it “Redhawk Center” after the school’s mascot, according to an announcement by the Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, president of the university.
Sundborg said he pursued the name change after reviewing a March 2016 report in The Seattle Times that documented the former Rev. Michael Cody’s decades of child sexual abuse while he served as a priest in various Catholic parishes in Western Washington under Connolly, the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Seattle from 1950 to 1975.
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Despite knowing Cody was a pedophile who posed grave dangers to children and others, Connolly’s response largely was to move him to unsuspecting parishes, letters and other internal Seattle Archdiocese records show.
“I brought the matter to the board at its first meeting following my own recent review of the letters and consultation with others,” Sundborg said in Friday’s statement. “This review affirmed in my mind that removing Archbishop Connolly’s name from our athletics and recreation center needed to happen and should have been acted on even sooner.”
According to the university’s website, recreation and sports facilities under the Connolly name include its NCAA regulation-size basketball court, as well as various pools, fields and sports courts.
Documents from the Seattle Archdiocese’s secret file on Cody’s sexual abuse — including records implicating Connolly’s knowledge of his behavior — have come to light in numerous lawsuits, including one brought by Jeri Hubbard, a Sedro-Woolley woman, who claimed Cody sexually abused her for years as a teen when he served as the priest of her Skagit County parish. The archdiocese later settled its case with Hubbard for $1.2 million.
Exactly how many children Cody victimized “would only be a guess,” a then-82-year-old Cody said during a 2013 deposition. In 1988, he told mental-health evaluators in Florida that over 20 years, he’d sexually abused 20 to 40 girls between 8 and 12 years old, and one boy.
Connolly helped facilitate that abuse, according to records, by transferring Cody from parish to parish throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
The archdiocese included Cody’s name on a list published in January 2016 that identified 77 clergy members who lived or worked in Western Washington and are known or believed to have sexually abused children.
Michael Pfau, a Seattle lawyer who has represented dozens of Catholic sexual-abuse victims — including Hubbard and multiple other victims of Cody — said the university’s action sends a “strong message.” Pfau said records show Connolly knew about predatory behavior of numerous priests, including Cody, but never reported them.
“It’s tremendous acknowledgment on the part of the university that the sexual-abuse problems the Catholic Church had were not just due to the perpetrators, but also those who supervised them,” Pfau said. “I don’t think anyone in the archdiocese was more responsible than Archbishop Connolly. He chose to ignore serious, serious problems.”
A spokesman for the archdiocese did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.
Information in this article, originally published May 4, 2018, was corrected May 5, 2018. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the sports center was named after Connolly in 1959.