The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena in Montana has reached a settlement for over 360 abuse victims.
The Diocese of Helena has declared bankruptcy to fund the $20 million settlement.
The lawsuit was presided over by a federal judge and involves victims who were abused over a period of several decades from the 1930’s to the 1970’s.
Pending the individual adjudications, the victims will receive a minimum of $2,500 each. The Diocese has also been ordered to set aside a trust fund of $920,000 for victims who may come forward in the future.
According to official court documents, most of the abuse occurred at the St. Ignatius Mission and the Ursuline Academy in Montana. The majority of the victims were around the age of 10 at the time the abuse occurred. The Ursuline Sister of the Western Province will contribute a $4.45 million payment for the abuse that occurred at the St. Ignatius boarding school at the hands of its priests.
Molly Howard, an attorney for the victims, issued the following statement of the settlement:
“Nothing will take away what happened. For our clients, it’s recognition that the church has accepted what occurred, and they’ve been validated in terms of (the church) believing what happened.”
The Diocese of Helena has also agreed to implement abuse training and background checks as part of their settlement with the victims. The background checks will be required for church volunteers, clergy and lay leaders and they will also include a psychological screening. The diocese will also provide a list of those known sexual abusers on their website in an effort to prevent them from working with children again.
Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Helena offered his condolences to the victims during Wednesday’s hearing. “The victims and survivors in our Diocese of Helena are believed and deeply respected,” said Thomas.