Judge: Sexual abuse claims against church can move forward

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A federal judge has granted a motion allowing two people who say they were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest in Absarokee in the 1970s and 80s to move forward with their complaints in state court.

Monday’s order by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jim Papas said the parties were not making progress in negotiations.

The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings filed for bankruptcy protection while working to settle 86 claims for abuse that took place in eastern Montana from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Attorneys for the two victims whose cases are moving forward argued processing their claims at the state level would provide more insight in reaching a settlement for the other 84 plaintiffs.

Papas said settlement talks on the other 84 cases can continue while the court cases proceed.