BILLINGS — The Roman Catholic Diocese for eastern Montana has filed a motion seeking dismissal of its bankruptcy case as it tries to settle claims from people who say they were sexually abused as children by diocese priests, nuns or other church employees.
The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings filed for bankruptcy protection last year in an effort to negotiate a financial settlement, but those talks have reached an impasse.
The diocese’s court filing Tuesday says the two sides are a substantial distance apart and the ongoing legal costs are draining resources available for a possible settlement.
“The impasse the parties are now in does not require the diocese to be in bankruptcy for resolution,” attorneys for the diocese argued, adding, “it is possible that resolution can be better made outside of bankruptcy.”
Attorneys for the 82 claimants argue the assets of 14 the diocese’s 50 parishes should be available to settle claims. The diocese counters that those funds are being held in trust on behalf of the parishes and should not be part of any settlement.
A diocese insurance policy covers 22 of the claims.
Bishop Michael Warfel told The Billings Gazette his obligation is to be fair to claimants while ensuring the parishes remain viable.
“The bankruptcy proceedings appear headed in a direction 180 degrees opposite from the goal which Bishop Warfel had in mind when he authorized the filing,” last March, the diocese said in a statement.
Jim Stang, an attorney for the claimants, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday from The Associated Press seeking comment.
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