FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS. THE BANKRUPTCY CASE OF THE GREAT FALLS- BILLINGS CATHOLIC DIOCESE – TAKES A HISTORIC TURN. AFTER ALMOST A YEAR OF TRYING TO REACH A SETTLEMENT, THE CHURCH – IS CHANGING COURSE. MTN’S TIM MCGONIGAL – EXPLAINS. “THE PROCESS THAT WE’VE BEEN GOING THROUGH HAS BASICALLY BEEN A BOX CANYON. AND I CAN’T SEE ANY LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL.” THE DIOCESE OF GREAT FALLS BILLINGS BECOME THE FIRST IN THE U-S TO FILE A MOTION TO DISMISS ITS CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY CASE. THE CHURCH FILED FOR THE PROTECTION A YEAR AGO IN A MOVE IT HOPED WOULD DEVELOP A COMPENSATION FUND FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE THAT TOOK PLACE OVER DECADES, MOSTLY IN RURAL AND RESERVATION PARISHES DATING BACK TO THE 1950’S. BUT AFTER MEDIATION SESSIONS AND INFORMAL DISCUSSIONS, THE DIOCESE SAYS THERE IS LITTLE CHANCE OF REACHING A SETTLEMENT WHILE IN BANKRUPTCY. “WITH THE MOUNT OF MONEY BEING PAID OUT BASICALLY TO ATTORNEYS, IT WAS DISSIPATING THE FUNDS AVAILABLE TO PAY CLAIMANTS A JUST RESOLUTION OF THE CLAIMS THEY HAD.” BISHOP WARFEL SAYS COMBINING CHURCH ASSETS AND ONLY 22 OF 86 VICTIMS BEING INSURED LED TO AN IMPASSE. “THERE’S A VERY WIDE GAP, A CHASM BETWEEN WHAT THE PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS ARE SEEKING AS OPPOSED TO WHAT WE JUDGE WE CAN PROVIDE.” UNDER THE BANKRUPTCY FILING, THERE WAS STAY OF RELIEF WHICH WOULD SCHEDULE TWO OF THE CLAIMS TO GO TO TRIAL. IF THE MOTION TO DISMISS IS GRANTED, THE REMAINING CASES WOULD GO TO STATE COURT, A PROCESS THAT COULD TAKE YEARS. “OUR HOPE WOULD BE TO REACH A SETTLEMENT BEFORE THOSE TRIALS. SO WE’RE STILL VERY ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN TRYING TO FIND A SETTLEMENT.” DESPITE THE LEGAL BATTLE, BISHOP WARFEL SAYS HE REMAINS OPEN TO SITTING DOWN WITH ABUSE VICTIMS. “MY ULTIMATE HOPE WOULD BE HEALING. THAT’S WHAT A CHURCH HAS TO BE ABOUT IS HEALING AND SEEKING RECONCILIATION AND FORGIVENESS.” JIM STANG, AN ATTORNEY FOR THE PLAINTIFF’S, DID NOT COMMENT ON THE MOTION TO DISMISS. HE SAYS HE’S MEETING WITH STATE COURT LAWYERS AND PLAINTIFFS TO DETERMINE HOW THEY WILL RESPOND. LATE LAST YEAR, THE GROUP REPRESENTING THE VICTIMS – FILED A LAWSUIT -CLAIMING AS MUCH AS 70-MILLION DOLLARS IN CHURCH ASSETS, INCLUDING 14 PARISHES -SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE BANKRUPTCY ESTATE. THAT CASE -IS STILL IN COURT. STILL TO COME ON