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Judge approves Helena diocese bankruptcy reorganization, sex abuse settlement proposal

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HELENA, Montana — A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday approved a reorganization plan for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena that includes a $16.4 million settlement for hundreds of people who sued the diocese over clergy sex abuse from the 1940s to the 1970s.

The plan, approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers in Missoula, includes another $4.45 million payment from the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province to settle a lawsuit filed by 45 Native Americans who alleged abuse and sex abuse at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius over the same time period.

The plan will now go to a vote of creditors, the 362 plaintiffs in two lawsuits against the Diocese, and the plaintiffs in the Ursuline lawsuit.

Neither side is allowed to comment while the vote is pending.

The settlement calls for the Diocese to post on its website the names of all known past and present perpetrators who are identified in sexual abuse claims or in the lawsuits. A disclosure statement filed Monday lists 22 people by their full names and another 20 whose first or last names aren't known.

The Diocese will fund its share of the settlement with $14.5 million from insurers and at least $2 million in cash, according to documents in the reorganization plan.

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