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Judge confirms plan settling US clergy sex-abuse claims

March 4, 2015

BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — Hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse that spanned decades in Montana stand to receive payments totaling about $20 million, after a federal judge on Wednesday confirmed the bankruptcy reorganization plan for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers approved the plan during an hour-long court hearing in Idaho, in which representatives of both victims and the diocese voiced their support.

More than 360 abuse claims will now go through an adjudication process to determine final payment amounts. Each allowed claim will receive a minimum of $2,500, and attorneys involved in the case said only a handful of the claims are considered dubious.

A $920,000 trust will be established for victims who come forward in the future.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy last year to resolve abuse claims that prompted lawsuits in state court from two groups of victims in 2011.

The majority of abuse occurred at the hands of Jesuit priests at the Ursuline Academy and the St. Ignatius Mission, both in St. Ignatius, Montana. The abuse ranged from rape and fondling, to perpetrators taking sexual photographs of children. It began in the 1930s and continued through the 1970s, according to court documents.

The average age of the victims at the time of abuse was 10 years old.

About half the claimants are women, and most are now between 50 and 69 years old, according to court documents.

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