Roman Catholic Church Sued By More Victims, Now in Montana
There are new claims of sexual abuse against Roman Catholic clergy coming from the Blackfeet Indian reservation. This brings at least 280 total number of plaintiffs in two lawsuits whom are seeking damages from the diocese but his time from oversees in western Montana.
One lawsuit alone has 200 plaintiffs after eight more were added Monday. Many are Native Americans who claim they were abused as children at schools, in orphanages, in church or in their homes.
They say the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena knew or should have known about the abuse, but covered it up instead of stopping it. The lawsuit says 26 clergy members were involved in the abuse that stretches back to the 1940s.
Attorney Kosnoff for the plaintiffs and the diocese are pursuing a settlement, and both sides are now interviewing the alleged victims before they meet with a mediator in November.
Kosnoff said about 140 people have been interviewed so far, but he acknowledged the November timeline could be pushed back if more alleged victims are added to the growing list of plaintiffs.
Diocese spokeswoman Renee St. Martin Wizeman said Monday that adding more plaintiffs does not change Bishop George Leo Thomas' resolve to settle the matter.
St. Martin Wizeman said the Helena diocese also is seeking mediation in a second lawsuit filed against it by at least 80 Native American plaintiffs making similar claims.
Kosnoff represents alleged sex-abuse victims in a separate lawsuit filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, which covers the eastern part of Montana.
He also was a plaintiffs' attorney in the case against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, which in 2011 agreed to pay $166 million to drop a lawsuit alleging sex abuse in Catholic-run schools across the Northwest and Alaska.