The Diocese of Helena is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its effort to settle 362 claims involving sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and nuns in Montana churches and boarding schools. The Diocese has pledged a proposed settlement fund of $15 million, which will be funded with insurance and Diocese assets.
The sexual abuse of children occurred in the 1930s through the 1980s at various parishes, missions and churches pertaining to the Helena Diocese in Western Montana.
“These priests and clergy members abused the most vulnerable kids; children who were completely trusting and innocent,” said Blaine Tamaki, lead counsel in one of the lawsuits filed against the Diocese.
Tamaki Law represents 95 of these abuse survivors. Tamaki Law’s clients will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed settlement after the bankruptcy is filed.
The Diocese of Helena’s proposed $15 million settlement is an acknowledgment of not only its responsibility for abuse perpetrated its own Diocesan priests against its child parishioners in Montana, but also its responsibility for abuse perpetrated by Jesuit priests who abused children within the Diocese.
In addition to the proposed monetary settlement, the Diocese of Helena must publicly apologize to the survivors of the childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and religious men and women working in the Diocese, publicize the names of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, offer to meet with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and provide a fund for future claimants who bring forth claims of sexual abuse by clergy working within the Helena Diocese.
Other non-monetary terms of the proposed settlement include providing counseling for abuse victims and establishing and reinforcing policies and procedures to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy members.
The Helena Diocese proposed settlement and bankruptcy filing addresses only one part of Tamaki Law’s pending cases alleging sexual abuse. Tamaki Law is proceeding to trial against the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province in July 2014.
“We are anxious to give these brave survivors their day in court and perhaps bring closure to a lifetime of trauma,” stated Tamaki.
Mr. Tamaki will address members of the media at 2 p.m. mountain time on January 31, 2014 from the first floor of the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court. A representative group of the Tamaki Law plaintiff group will be present.