(Missoula, Mont.) A 31-page legal complaint was filed today on behalf of 45 Montanans seeking justice for abuse they suffered as children attending St. Ignatius mission school and two Missoula catholic schools. One plaintiff attended Loyola High School. Two plaintiffs attended St. Mary’s Catholic School. Most of the plaintiffs boarded at the mission schools, but several were day students.
The children were identified as “Jane or John Does” in the complaint, as they were victims of sexual crimes as minors.
Blaine Tamaki, founder of Tamaki Law (Yakima), was a leader in the legal challenge against the Northwest Jesuits. The firm represented the greatest number of plaintiffs in the contiguous 48 states in the recent Northwest Jesuits bankruptcy $166 million settlement. Tamaki is not surprised by the large number of plaintiffs coming forward in Montana, taking action against both the Montana Diocese and the Ursuline Sisters, nuns that worked in the Diocese run schools.
“It is the tip of a long-silent iceberg. For too long, the victims believed they would never receive the justice they deserve. Now, it is their time and they deserve accountability,” Tamaki said.
The complaint contends that the priests and nuns used their positions as authority figures to “molest, exploit and abuse children.”
Attorney Vito de la Cruz of Tamaki Law called the exploitation against vulnerable children “irreconcilable with the values of Christian mission to the poor.”
“The perpetrators espoused religious guidance and educational values to the community that supported them, but the truth about what happened to the mission children is horrific,” de la Cruz stated.
Similar to prior allegations against Dioceses elsewhere, today’s legal complaint alleges that Montana Diocese “engaged in a pattern and practice of employing, sheltering, and protecting priests, who it knew or should have known were engaged in sexual abuse.” The Roman Catholic Diocese of Montana consists of numerous parishes, including St. Ignatius Parish and Mission, St. Xavier Mission Parish and the Ursuline Academy.
“It is difficult for victims to come forward to reveal the horrors that happened to them,” Tamaki said. “But we are a safe place for them to call. We have spent a long time in Montana, on the reservations, and we have built trust.”
It is expected that many will feel empowered to step forward, now that the veil of secrecy has been lifted. Tamaki emphasizes that survivors can be assured that calls to Tamaki Law will be handled in a confidential manner.
The lawsuit against the Ursuline Sisters and the Diocese of Helena was filed this morning in Lewis and Clark County (Montana) Superior Court.