Parties in Helena Diocese case move to enact settlement
MISSOULA – Now that a federal bankruptcy judge has approved a multi-million dollar agreement, parties in the suit accusing the Roman Catholic clergy of sex abuse in Montana will have several weeks to finalize the details of the settlement.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers approved the 16-million dollar settlement in a court hearing in Missoula this week, the latest development in a case that first started in 2011.
The victims, most of whom are Native American, had complained the church’s personnel were involved in hundreds of cases of sexual abuse, some dating back more than 50-years. Most of the dispute centered over operations at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius.
The Diocese of Helena had filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding early last year to clear the way for resolving the case through the settlement.
Under the plan approved by Judge Myers this week, a timeline has been set out for the parties to enact the settlement.
That process will involve efforts to identify all of the victims through the Diocese website, and provides for an appeal process for anyone who objects to terms of the settlement. It also establishes a points system which will be used to determine the amounts for the individual settlements.
The parties aren’t commenting on the settlement at this stage, but the church has offered statements of apology previously.
“On Behalf of the entire Diocese of Helena, I express my profound sorrow and sincere apologies to anyone who was abused by a priest, a sister, or a lay church worker,” Helena Bishop, George Leo Thomas said in a statement last January. “No child should experience harm from anyone who serves in the church.”