34 Claiming Sexual Abuse by Priests File Suit against Helena Diocese

By Kevin Maki
NBC Montana
September 22, 2011

MISSOULA, Mont. -- Thirty-four men and women who claim they were sexually abused by Catholic priests in Montana churches, schools and missions, filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Helena.

Forty-nine-year-old Dana Short claims she was abused when she was 8-years-old by Father Bernard Harris while attending St. Francis Xavier Church in Missoula.

The suit comes on the heels of a settlement made by the "Society of Jesus" to pay $166 million to settle more than 500 sex abuse claims in the region.

Many of those victims said they were abused in Montana.

"I would hope that given the body of evidence that we've already produced and were prepared to present to the diocese that we can cut to the chase," said Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff.

But Renee St. Martin-Wizeman from the Diocese of Helena said, "The priests and men and women religious that would be brothers and sisters named in this were not Diocesan. These were ordered clergy of the Jesuit and Ursuline Orders."

The plaintiffs range in age from 45 to 73-years-old. They are demanding that the names of all sexual abusers in the Diocese be published.

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