Diocese of Helena moves toward settlement in abuse claims

Montana Standard

The Diocese of Helena released the following statement this morning, and will hold a press conference this afternoon, Jan. 31, in Helena:

The Diocese of Helena has taken a major step toward bringing resolution to 362 claims of abuse of minors by diocesan priests, religious community priests, women religious and lay workers who have served in the diocese, primarily between 30 and 60 years ago.

On Friday, January 31, 2014, the Diocese will be filing a chapter 11 reorganization case before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Montana to complete pre-bankruptcy mediated negotiations with known abuse survivors and the Diocese’s liability insurance carriers.

The Diocese chose a pastoral mode and entered into a confidential mediation process. The mediation resulted in the general parameters of proposed settlements with the victims and the insurance carriers. The details of written agreements are still being worked on by the parties. Under the supervision and ultimate approval of the Bankruptcy Court, $15 million would be available to compensate the currently identified victims with additional settlement funds for other and unknown victims. The process of obtaining Bankruptcy Court approval included the opportunity for victims and creditors to vote on the proposed settlement. The Diocese expects that its reorganization will be expedited by the pre-bankruptcy negotiations with all of the affected parties.

“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,” said Helena Bishop, George Leo Thomas. “No child should experience harm from anyone who serves in the Church.”

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