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Clergy Abuse in Montana

Like many Roman Catholic Dioceses across the country, the Dioceses of Montana have been clouded in scandal. The Dioceses of Great Falls-Billings and Helena have faced numerous allegations and legal claims of priest abuse in Montana. To compensate survivors of abuse, both dioceses filed for bankruptcy.

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Montana Sexual Assault Laws

Across the country, survivors of clergy abuse are coming forward with their experiences. Many of the allegations are several decades old. Thus, under many state laws, survivors are no longer able to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Recognizing this legal rights issue, state lawmakers are making legislative changes to help victims.

Several states passed significant legislation to broaden the rights of survivors of abuse. In 2019, Montana joined this list of states by passing House Bill 640.

Montana House Bill 640 Revises Childhood Sexual Abuse Laws

In May 2019, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed House Bill 640 (HB 640) into law. HB 640 expanded the legal rights of victims of childhood sexual abuse. The law provides a number of important provisions:

  • HB 640 extended the legal deadline for civil claims of childhood sexual abuse.
  • HB 640 opened a one-year “look back” window during which a survivor of childhood sexual abuse file a civil lawsuit against an abuser regardless of the legal deadlines.
  • HB640 removed the legal deadline to press criminal charges against a perpetrator of childhood sexual abuse.

Montana Clergy Abuse Lawsuits

The Catholic Church is currently facing clergy abuse lawsuits across the United States. The Montana Dioceses of Helena and Great Falls-Billings have faced many lawsuits regarding clergy sex abuse. Both dioceses filed for bankruptcy to cover their debts brought on by litigation.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Priest Sexual Abuse in Montana?

To file a legal claim against an abuser, a victim of sexual abuse must file a claim within the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs are determined at the state level and vary based on the crime.

To learn more about legal deadlines, visit our statute of limitations page >

In the state of Montana, a victim of child sexual abuse must follow one statute to press criminal charges and a different statute to file civil claims against an abuser.

Criminal Charges

In Montana, there is no legal deadline to press criminal charges against a perpetrator of child sexual abuse. The time limit on criminal charges of child sex abuse was eliminated by HB640.

Civil Claims

In Montana, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse must file civil claims against an abuser:

  • Before the survivor reaches 27 years of age

OR

  • No later than 3 years after the survivor discovers or reasonably should have discovered that an injury was caused by an experience of childhood sexual abuse

Before Montana lawmakers passed HB640, abuse victims had to file civil claims before they reached 24 years of age.

What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and Civil Lawsuit?

If the abuser (defendant) is found guilty in a criminal case, he or she may face probation or time in prison. The victim (plaintiff) would only receive money if the court requires the defendant to pay restitution to the plaintiff.

If the abuser (defendant) is found liable in a civil case, he or she must pay a monetary award to the victim (plaintiff). The amount of the award is determined by the jury. The award covers any damages caused by the abuse.

Montana Legal “Look Back” Window

HB640 opened a one-year legal “look back” window in the state of Montana. Starting May 7, 2019, any survivor of child sexual abuse has one year to file a civil claim against his or her abuser. This includes cases that are expired according to the new legal deadline for civil claims.

Montana’s “look back” window does have one main criteria that must be met to file a claim. The abuser or named defendant in the case must be alive at the time the legal action begins. This provision limits some survivors of clergy abuse from filing a claim in cases where the abusive priest is deceased.

Dioceses of Montana Bankruptcies

Currently, 23 Catholic dioceses filed for bankruptcy after facing clergy abuse lawsuits in the United States. For these Catholic dioceses, many of the creditors are survivors of clergy abuse.

The two Catholic Dioceses of Montana both filed for bankruptcy in the midst of abuse allegations and legal claims.

Helena Diocese

In January 2014, the Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy. Prior to filing, the diocese paid $9 million to settle clergy abuse claims. Because of this, by 2014, the diocese was struggling financially and still faced numerous sexual abuse claims. Bankruptcy allowed the diocese to reorganize its assets to maintain operations and settle its debts.

A little over a year after filing, the diocese paid approximately $21 million to compensate 360 victims. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, the diocese also agreed to several non-monetary conditions.

Non-Monetary Terms of Helena Diocese Bankruptcy Settlement
  • The Helena Diocese agreed to run background checks on all clergy, diocesan staff, and volunteers.
  • The Helena Diocese agreed to psychologically evaluate seminarians. 
  • The Helena Diocese agreed to publish a list of abusive clergy members on its website.

Great Falls-Billings Diocese

In March 2017, the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings Diocese filed for bankruptcy. However, the bankruptcy filing for the diocese was shrouded in controversy.

Between 2011 and 2018, 86 people made claims of child sexual abuse against the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. Before the first trial began, the diocese filed for bankruptcy.

An additional lawsuit against the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings was filed shortly after the bankruptcy filing. The lawsuit claimed the diocese transferred assets into a non-profit corporation before filing for bankruptcy.

By moving assets into a non-profit corporation, the Great Falls-Billings Diocese protected assets from the scrutiny of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, claiming fewer assets than the diocese actually had.

In March 2018, the diocese filed to dismiss the bankruptcy proceedings. The diocese claimed that stalled mediation attempts were financially draining the diocese. However, later that year, the diocese reached a settlement agreement with victims through the bankruptcy court. The diocese paid $20 million to compensate 86 victims. Like the Diocese of Helena, the Great Falls-Billings Diocese agreed to non-monetary terms.

Non-Monetary Terms of Great Falls-Billings Diocese Bankruptcy Settlement
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to publish the names of abusive clergy members on its website. The list will remain online for 10 years.
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to publish victim statements on its website for two years.
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to continue conducting background checks and psychological screenings of clergy members and seminarians. 
  • The Bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to meet with any survivor of clergy abuse who wishes to meet.
  • The Bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to visit every group of parishes where abuse occurred.
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to prominently display a phone number and email address on its website to which abuse allegations may be reported. 
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to adopt a whistleblower policy to protect any person who files a report against the diocese or parishes. 
  • Clergy members and staff of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings must not refer to victims of abuse as “alleged victims.”
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings may not lobby for legislation that would hinder a victim’s ability to file a legal claim of child sexual abuse.
  • The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings agreed to print a statement in its newspaper encouraging victims to report abuse to local law enforcement agencies. This must happen twice a year.

List of Priests Accused of Abuse in Montana

Below is a list of Catholic priests accused of abuse in Montana. There may be other types of accused clergy members on our list. This list does not include diocesan staff, parish volunteers or congregation members accused of abuse.

If you can’t find an abuser on our list of abusive priests in Montana, you can search for the priest using our searchable, nationwide database of accused priests. However, your abuser does not need to be on our list for you to file a lawsuit. Our list will grow and change as more survivors of abuse come forward with their experiences.

If you or a loved one has been abused by a clergy member in Montana, speak with our legal team about your rights. We want to help you get the justice you deserve.


Montana Priest Abuse Victim Resources

Victims of priest abuse do not have to suffer in silence. There are many different programs across the state of Montana that provide resources to survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. The table below offers Montana victim resources organized by county.

Montana Sexual Violence Programs by County

CountyFacility NamePhone Number(s)
BeaverheadCommunity Support CenterHotline: 1-800-253-9811
Office: 406-683-6106
Big HornYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-679-5145
BlaineYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
BroadwaterThe Friendship CenterHotline: 406-442-6800
CarbonYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-245-4472
Office: 406-252-6303
CarbonDomestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS)Hotline: 406-425-2222
CarterCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
CascadeYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
CascadeVoices of HopeOffice: 1-406-268-1330
ChouteauHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
ChouteauYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
CusterCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
DanielsGlasgow Victim-Witness Advocate*Call your local police department for more information.
DawsonDawson County Domestic Violence ProgramHotline: 406-989-1318
Office: 406-377-6477
Deer LodgeSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
FallonCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
FergusSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
FergusYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
FlatheadThe Abbie ShelterHotline: 406-752-7273
Office: 406-752-4735
GallatinHelp Center, Inc.Hotline: 406-586-3333
GarfieldCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
GarfieldSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
GlacierHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
GlacierYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
Golden ValleySAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
GraniteSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
GraniteFirst Step Resource Center
St. Patrick Hospital
Office: 406-329-5776
GraniteYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
HillYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
JeffersonSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
JeffersonThe Friendship CenterHotline: 406-442-6800
Judith BasinYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
Judith BasinSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
LakeFirst Step Resource CenterOffice: 406-329-5776
LakeYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
LakeSAFE HarborHotline: 406-676-0800
Office: 406-676-0992
Lewis and ClarkThe Friendship CenterHotline: 406-442-6800
Lewis and ClarkYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
LibertyHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
LibertyYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
LincolnLincoln County Crisis Solutions (LCCS)Hotline: 406-293-3223
MadisonSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
MadisonHelp Center, Inc.Hotline: 406-586-3333
MadisonCommunity Support CenterHotline: 1-800-253-9811
Office: 406-683-6106
McConeRichland County Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceOffice: 406-433-7421
MeagherAbuse Support & Prevention Education Network (ASPEN)Hotline: 406-222-8154
Office: 406-222-5902
MeagherYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
MeagherThe Friendship CenterHotline: 406-442-6800
MineralYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
MissoulaFirst Step Resource CenterOffice: 406-329-5776
MissoulaCrime Victim Advocate (CVA) ProgramOffice: 406-258-3830
MissoulaYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
MusselshellYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-245-4472
Office: 406-252-6303
MusselshellSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
ParkAbuse Support & Prevention Education Network (ASPEN)Hotline: 406-222-8154
Office: 406-222-5902
ParkHelp Center, Inc.Hotline: 406-586-3333
PetroleumSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
PhillipsGlasgow Victim-Witness Advocate*Call your local police department for more information.
PonderaHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
PonderaYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
Powder RiverCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
PowellSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
PowellFirst Step Resource CenterOffice: 406-329-5776
PrairieDawson County Domestic Violence ProgramHotline: 406-989-1318
Office: 406-377-6477
RavalliSupporters of Abuse Free Environments (SAFE)Hotline: 406-363-4600
Office: 406-363-2793
RavalliYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
RichlandRichland County Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceOffice: 406-433-7421
RooseveltNortheast Montana Victim/Witness Advocate ProgramOffice: 406-653-2999
RosebudCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
RosebudYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-245-4472
Office: 406-252-6303
SandersFirst Step Resource CenterOffice: 406-329-5776
SandersYWCA of MissoulaHotline: 406-542-1944
Office: 406-543-6691
SandersSanders County Coalition For Families (SCCFF)Hotline: 406-827-3745
Office: 406-827-3218
SheridanGlasgow Victim-Witness Advocate*Call your local police department for more information.
Silver BowSafe SpaceHotline: 406-782-8511
Office: 406-782-9807
StillwaterYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-245-4472
Office: 406-252-6303
StillwaterDomestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS)Hotline: 406-425-2222
Sweet GrassAbuse Support & Prevention Education Network (ASPEN)Hotline: 406-222-8154
Office: 406-222-5902
TetonHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
TetonYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
TooleHi-Lines Help for Abused SpousesHotline: 800-219-7336
Office: 406-278-3342
TooleYWCA of Great FallsHotline: 406-453-1018
Office: 406-452-1315
TreasureCuster Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA)Hotline: 1-888-799-0542
ValleyGlasgow Victim-Witness Advocate*Call your local police department for more information.
WheatlandSAVES, Inc.Hotline: 406-535-2303
WibauxDawson County Domestic Violence ProgramHotline: 406-989-1318
Office: 406-377-6477
YellowstoneYWCA BillingsHotline: 406-245-4472
Office: 406-252-6303
Sources:Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, Community Support Center

Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence

The Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (MCADSV) is a collaborative network of individuals and organizations. The group is working to end domestic and sexual violence in the state of Montana.

Montana Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Services

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Services Program (SVPVS) is run by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The SVPVS, “implements prevention efforts that reduce risk factors and increase protective factors associated with sexual violence perpetration and victimization.” For more information about the SVPVS, contact the program specialist, Patrick Paradis, by calling 406-444-3628.

Montana Clergy Abuse FAQs

How Do I Report Sexual Abuse by a Priest in Montana?

If you or a suspected victim is in immediate danger, call the police.

To report any sexual abuse:

Report any case of sexual abuse or sexual assault to your local law enforcement agency. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be advised to seek medical attention promptly.

For more information about reporting sexual abuse, visit our resource page>

To report sexual abuse of a minor:

Call the Montana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-866-820-5437 to report cases of child sexual abuse or suspected child sexual abuse.

To report sexual abuse to the Diocese of Helena:

Contact the victim’s advocate with any concerns or allegations regarding a case of clergy abuse in the Diocese of Helena.

Helen Beausoleil | Victim’s Advocate
Phone: 406-459-0513
Email Address: [email protected]

To report sexual abuse to the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings:

Contact the diocese about cases of clergy abuse using the contact information below.

Teresa Schmit | Victims Assistance Coordinator
Phone: 406-750-2373
Email Address: [email protected]

Are Clergy Members Required to Report Abuse in Montana?

Yes. Clergy members are required by Montana state law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. This includes suspected child sexual abuse. However, Montana state law also allows certain exemptions for clergy members with regard to reporting alleged abuse.

“A member of the clergy or priest is not required to make a report under this section if the communication is required to be confidential by canon law, church doctrine, or established church practice.”

Montana State Law

These exemptions allow clergy members to keep cases of clergy abuse hidden. In doing so, these church officials can protect the reputation of the dioceses and subsequently the reputation of the accused priests. Critics argue these exemptions do not protect victims.

These exemptions do not hinder a victim’s ability to file a lawsuit against an abusive priest or responsible diocese.

Some states, such as Illinois, recently expanded their rules around mandatory reporting and clergy participation to protect victims. There is a chance Montana may take similar legislative action in the future.

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