Ten people filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming they were sexually abused as children by Roman Catholic priests and nuns in central and eastern Montana, including a priest who was on a board that reviews allegations of child sex abuse for the church. The following article is from the Great Falls Tribune and Written by KIMBALL BENNION
Sex abuse suit filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings
A third lawsuit alleging abuse by Catholic clergy in Montana was filed Wednesday morning in Great Falls — this time from 10 plaintiffs alleging sexual assault by priests from within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.
The only named plaintiff in the case, Timothy Becker, alleged that the Rev. Ted Szudera, who until last month was in active ministry in Stanford, abused him in 1978 and 1979 while Szudera was a priest in Livingston. Becker said in an interview Wednesday that he attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and the St. Mary parish in Livingston growing up, and that the alleged abuse occurred both in the church and in the school.
The Great Falls-Billings Diocese denied the allegations against Szudera, saying that an earlier accusation against Szudera brought to the church by Becker in 2006 was deemed unfounded after the diocese hired a private investigator to look into the allegation.
The Rev. Jay Peterson, vicar general for the Great Falls-Billings Diocese, said the other allegations set forth in the lawsuit were never brought to the church’s attention.
In a press conference Wednesday announcing the suit’s filing, attorney Tim Kosnoff of the Seattle-based law firm of Kosnoff Fasy said Becker and nine other plaintiffs told them about “appalling instances of sexual abuse going on for years” at the hands of priests and nuns in various places across Montana.
“The abuse is of the most hideous nature I’ve ever seen,” Kosnoff said, later adding a call to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate all claims of clerical abuse coming out of Montana.
Attorney General Steve Bullock responded with a statement that read in part:
“My top priority is keeping kids safe. Allegations of sexual abuse are always distressing, especially when the alleged perpetrator is in a position of trust.”
Bullock’s statement further reads that as of 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, his office asked for a copy of the complaint but didn’t get one.
“However, if it alleges that crimes have been committed, we encourage the victims to immediately contact their local law enforcement agency so those allegations can be investigated.”
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