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Montana Catholic Dioceses
Incidents of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are well-known, as are the Church’s attempts to cover up and even ignore the crimes of sexual predators. Across the country, court records have detailed how church officials for years have knowingly transferred offending priests from one location to another.
Currently, we’re involved in two large, multi-plaintiff cases in Montana against the Helena diocese and the Great Falls-Billings diocese.
Helena Diocese Sex Abuse
The case against the Helena diocese was filed in September 2011 in Montana First Judicial District Court of Lewis and Clark County in Helena, Montana. We represent 250 men and women in that case. More abuse survivors continue to come forward, and we continue to investigate claims of abuse in that diocese. Recently, we ran a TV commercial urging survivors to come forward to file a claim while they still can, before settlement talks later this year.
Helena’s Bishop George Leo Thomas urged survivors to come forward and recently pledged that the Diocese will open its books and attempt to use a mediator to settle claims for those sexually abused by clergy in western Montana. Diocese officials posted on its web site, “The Diocese is working with victims’ attorneys and has extended an offer for Bishop George Thomas to meet with victims individually.” http://www.diocesehelena.org/resources/safe-env/_pdfs/reporting.pdf
Meanwhile, the case against the Great Falls-Billings diocese is progressing on behalf of 29 child sex-abuse victims. Additional witnesses have come forward with information, and we’re continuing to investigate. The case has been filed in Montana Eighth Judicial District Court in Cascade County. The case has numerous unnamed alleged perpetrators and five named alleged abusers, including Father Ted Szudera. One of our clients, a former altar boy, was raped by Szudera for two years. The Great Falls diocese conducted its own self-styled investigation, dismissed the allegations as unfounded and allowed Szudera to continue serving as a priest around children. Following the allegations, Szudera served on a bishop’s committee advising the diocese on how to handle clergy sex-abuse allegations.
The Great Falls diocese also has used a high-ranking off-duty police officer from the Great Falls Police Department working as private investigator to “investigate” cases for the diocese. Instead of launching a criminal investigation into child rape allegations at Catholic churches, this police officer has been working for the employer of the alleged rapists. The diocese has acknowledged as many as 10 cases where off-duty police have “investigated” for them. It’s a practice we believe is highly improper and represents a failure to protect the public.
If you have been abused by a Catholic priest in Montana or have information about such abuse, please contact us at 206-257-3590 or toll-free at 855-LAW-4-CSA, 855-529-4272. You can also find information at: http://abusedinmontana.com
A sampling of credibly accused abusers
-Fr. Bernard Harris
-Fr. A. J. Ferretti ("Father Freddy")
-Fr. Bernard Harris ("Father Harry")
-Fr. William Burke ("Father Burke")
-Brother Rene Gallant ("Brother Charlie")
-Fr. Edward Robinson ("Father Eddy")
-Fr. James Barry
-Father Wilson Smart