Helena, Mont., diocese plans bankruptcy after clergy abuse settlement

Jan. 31, 2014 at 4:52 PM
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HELENA, Mont., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Mont., will file for bankruptcy after agreeing to settle lawsuits in hundreds of cases of priest abuse, a spokesman said.

Dan Bartleson, a spokesman for the diocese, said the filing would be made Friday, following agreement with attorneys for plaintiffs in 362 cases of sexual abuse by clergy and church officials' efforts to cover up the abuse, the Helena Independent Record reported.

The newspaper said final details of the settlement had yet to be worked out, but victims who have been identified are to receive $15 million, with the distribution being determined by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, with additional funds provided for victims who have not yet been identified.

Bartleson said victims and creditors will be able to vote on whether to accept the settlement.

The lawsuits, filed in 2011, alleged priests groomed and sexually abused children beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the 1970s, and that diocesan officials protected the abusers.

The diocese has filed claims with 16 insurers for the cost of the settlements and its legal defense overall, the newspaper said. Some carriers are challenging the diocesan claims in court.

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