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They Prey, You Pray — And Pay

After the bill comes due in Montana for decades of pervert priests fleecing the flock, Montana bishop asks parishioners to pay
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Native American holy woman (Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock)

In the late spring, Bishop Michael Warfel of the Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings (Montana), sent a letter to his flock. Here’s how it starts:

Hold on, here it comes:

In other words, the bishop is shaking down the people to pay the bill for the diocese’s priests molesting children. The cases here — 80 or so — are especially egregious, because past bishops dumped child molester priests onto Indian reservations. More:

For decades, even lifetimes, the Catholic Church refused to turn in priests with known pasts of sexually abusing children, women and men. The story is known in as many corners of the world as the Catholic Church exists, including Montana’s two dioceses. 

In the Pacific Northwest, however, the Catholic Church and the Jesuit Order have been accused of using Indian Reservations as their “dumping grounds” for the worst recidivist priests accused of sexually abusing children throughout the 1900s. Here, church officials reportedly determined predatory priests could remain undetected. Here, the church acted as an anchor for the communities, and the victims lived with the abuse in silence.

Attorney Vito de la Cruz said Montana reservations were no different: They were the church’s rural and remote sites for hiding predatory priests. Cruz’s Seattle law firm has represented victims from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, and he said the systematic issue is told from church documents revealed in cases already settled, and the active one against the Great Falls-Billings Diocese.

“I think the evidence points to that,” Cruz told the Tribune. “Those who had problems in respect to abusing kids, it’s easy to hide in the reservations; people won’t complain much, it’s isolated there, and there are massively disproportionate balances of power.”


When victims would tell a friend or family member, they sometimes told the victim to not put the church in jeopardy. The priests or nuns would tell the victim no one would believe them anyway, Cruz said.

“What’s a child who’s eight years old going to do?” Cruz said.

The details of the abuse were brutal and violent. In limited descriptions found in court documents, victims allege their abuse included “forced fondling of breasts and genitals, anal rape, forced fellatio, digital, penile and anal penetration, vaginal penetration, sexually motivated ‘washing’ and ‘spanking’ and forced masturbation,” by priests, brothers and nuns.

The bishop quotes a Christian pop singer to justify asking the people upon whom these monsters preyed to pay the bill for their criminal perversion.

If I were in that diocese, I might consider thrown a dollar into the pot in exchange for the bishop showing up in a public forum and facing questioning about the exploitive networks in the Church, including what he knows about sexually compromised bishops, Uncle Ted, and all the rest. Not that I would expect him to tell the truth, but it would still be worthwhile watching him squirm.



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