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Catholic diocese identifies priests accused of sexual abuse in Montana from decades past

Posted at 6:40 AM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-01 08:40:40-04

GREAT FALLS- The names of 27 Catholic priests and other clergy members accused of sexual abuse decades ago in Montana have been released as part of a settlement agreement with victims.

The names became public in federal bankruptcy court documents filed by the Diocese for Great Falls-Billings, which agreed to a $20 million settlement with 86 victims in April. Most had not been publicly known. (See the bottom of this story for the names)

Victims will decide if they wish to accept the settlement at an Aug. 14 hearing at the bankruptcy court in Butte, according to a recent court filing. 

As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed to post on its website a list of all known past and present clergy members who have been identified by victims. The list would remain on the site for at least 10 years.

The diocese would also develop a phone number and email address designed for anonymous complaints of abuse and a whistle-blower policy. All victims of sexual abuse would be released from confidentiality agreements and be allowed to tell their stories.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2017, months before jury trials for victims’ civil cases were set to begin. Church officials said they declared bankruptcy to develop a means to set up a compensation fund for victims. 

This March, the diocese filed to dismiss the bankruptcy. Bishop Michael Warfel said then that the legal case was draining too much church resources that could go to victims. 

The first claims of sexual abuse were filed in 2011, mostly involving parishes in rural Eastern Montana or on reservations. Some claims dated back to the 1950s, and the majority were in the 1970s, according to court documents.

The names of the priests are: Cyril Altermatt, Joseph Brown, Patrick Conway, Arnold Custer, Francis Duffy, Augustine J. Ferretti, Charles Gorman, Joseph Heretick, Leo Jansen, Koerner (first name unknown), Patrick Kendrigan, Kevin Malee, Bernard McMeel, Thomas McTague, Clarence Talks Different, Krik Morgan, James Reilly, Father O’Reilly (first name unknown), Joseph Papes, Sylvester Penna, Brother Rene (first name unknown), James Reynolds, Edmund Robinson, John Ryan, Patrick Savage, Frederick Simoneau, Andrew Zerek. 

See also: Diocese of Great Falls-Billings wants bankruptcy dismissal

See also: Victims: $70 million in assets from Montana Catholic parishes at stake in clergy-abuse settlement