HELENA — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena is investigating a priest accused of abuse a minor. The alleged abuse happened in 2001.
In a statement, the diocese says Bishop Austin Vetter notified law enforcement after they learned of the accusation and placed the priest on administrative leave as of October 27, 2022.
The priest has not been officially charged with any crime at this time. MTN News is not identifying the priest because he has not been charged with a crime.
The Diocese says they take every accusation of abuse seriously. The accused priest is not permitted to have contact with minors and will refrain from administrative responsibilities and priestly duties. The Diocese also recognizes that accused persons are justly considered innocent until proven guilty.
"I ask that you join me as we pray together for those who are directly involved, and everyone affected by this difficult situation,” said Bishop Vetter in a statement.
Upon the conclusion of any law enforcement investigation, the Diocese of Helena will then initiate a third-party investigation into the accusation.
The Diocese strongly encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse, or if anyone is aware of a potential victim of abuse by Diocese of Helena personnel or clergy to report the incident to law enforcement and the Diocesan Victim’s Advocate, who can be reached at 406-459-0513.
In 2014, the Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy following a string of abuse allegations against past clergy that occurred between the 1930s and 1970s. A more than $20 million dollar settlement fund was set up to compensate the 360 victims who came forth with claims of sexual abuse. The Helena Diocese did not challenge the validity of the vast majority of claims, with only a few being ruled out due to dates, names and locations not adding up. A retired federal judge, who acted independently, determined how much compensation each victim received from the fund.
As part of the settlement, the Helena Diocese posted the names of all accused clergy.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information about past allegations of abuse against clergy that had belonged to the Helena Diocese.