Diocese of Helena Files for Bankruptcy Protection Following Laws - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Diocese of Helena Files for Bankruptcy Protection Following Lawsuits

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Tonight's top story comes out of the Capital City. After two lawsuits, the Diocese of Helena has filed for bankruptcy protection. ABC Montana's Joe Moeller brings us the full report.

On Friday the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy protection from possible settlements for two lawsuits from 2011. They claim clergy members of the church sexually abused roughly 362 individuals, who are now between the ages of 30 and 60.

Lawsuits filed claim clergy members groomed and abused children from the 1940's through 1970's, and that the diocese tried covering it up.  

"I can tell you back in the 1950's certainly in the 1960's and 70's I think sadly a lot of this is driven not by a desire to cover up, but an ignorance of the nature of child abuse. " said Helena Bishop George Leo Thomas.

The diocese which spreads across 23 counties and employs 200 people in Western Montana filed the chapter 11 bankruptcy after confidential mediation sessions with the plaintiffs attorneys. The agreement could also include a list of credibly accused offenders being released.

"I am certainly committed to publishing the names of those who are credibly accused, I think it is also important for us to publish the venues where they served over the years because there may be outstanding victims that have not yet come forward. I think that is also very important." added Thomas. 

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Montana would be responsible for the $15 million, depending on approval, and supervising of the disbursement of the compensation to victims. In addition the filing also allows for a future claims pool of funds set aside for those who come forward at a later time.

The majority of the proposed settlement of known and unknown victims will be funded by insurance carriers, and it is anticipated the diocese, whose yearly budget is $1.7 million, will provide at least $2.5 million of the settlement.

"One behalf the church and Diocese of Helena, in the name of all the people in the Diocese of Helena, I wanted to express my profound sorrow and apology for which you have undergone. I know the pain is real, the pain is in the present tense and in the name of the Church I want to say we are sorry as a Church." said Thomas.

Now the two parties are still in the mediation process and once they do come to an agreement the diocese expects to release the list of credibly accused in one to three months. 

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