OLEAN, N.Y. (WKBW) — St. Bonaventure University may re-name one of its most visible campus buildings after discovering it was named after a priest who is accused of child sexual abuse.
Hopkins Hall, which houses university administrators and financial aid staff, was built in 1964 and named after Msgr. James F. Hopkins, a priest in Pennsylvania who died in 1957.
But Sean Mickey, a reporter for The Bona Venture student newspaper, discovered and brought to university officials' attention the fact that last year's Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed an allegation that Hopkins abused a 13-year-old girl in 1945.
“We have verified with Msgr. Edward Lohse that Hopkins was on the Diocese of Erie’s list of credible clergy abuse claims, so I need to look very seriously at this issue and how it might impact the naming of the university’s administration building,” St. Bonaventure president Dr. Dennis DePerro said in a statement. “I will consult with members of my Senior Executive Management Team and hope to have a recommendation to present to our Board of Trustees by the end of the month.”
The passage from the grand jury report states that in 1993, a victim wrote a letter to Bishop Donald W. Trautman at the Diocese of Erie describing abuse in the rectory of St. Titus, where Hopkins was pastor.
The woman said Hopkins would “grab our face in his hands, force us to look up, and then plant a sloppy kiss on our mouths. He would also grab us and pull us close, wrap his cape around us, and fondle us wherever he pleased.”
The report stated that Trautman, who has been heavily criticized for his handling of sexual abuse allegations in the dioceses of Buffalo and Erie, wrote a letter back to the victim in 1994 stating, "Since Monsignor Hopkins died in July of 1957, there is no possible way to investigate your accusation.”
Hopkins is now listed on the Diocese of Erie's "public disclosure list" of clergy and teachers who took actions that "disqualify that person from working with children."
Hopkins entered St. Bonaventure's old seminary in 1897 and was ordained a diocesan priest in 1900 by Buffalo Bishop James Quigley, according to St. Bonaventure's archives, but he served is entire career in Pennsylvania.
The archives show Hopkins received an honorary degree in 1950 from St. Bonaventure, but he does not appear to have ever served at the university.
St. Bonaventure officials said it was unclear why the building was named after Hopkins.
A formal resolution to the university’s board of trustees would need to be submitted at their next meeting in late May before any official action can be taken, a university spokesman said.