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Roman Catholic diocese of Helena files for bankruptcy protection amid child sex abuse lawsuits

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Mont., is filing for bankruptcy protection amid lawsuits that claim clergy members abused 362 children over decades.

Diocese spokesman Dan Bartleson said in a statement Friday the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case will help resolve the abuse claims.

The diocese covers western Montana and employs about 200 people.

The two lawsuits filed in 2011 claim clergy members abused the children from the 1930s to the 1970s. They claim the diocese shielded the offenders and knew or should have known the threat they posed.

The plaintiffs, the diocese and the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province held three mediation sessions, but the talks faltered with challenges by the church's insurers over the claims they must cover.

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