The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Mont., filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday to lead to a $15 million settlement of lawsuits alleging clergy members sexually abused 362 children over five decades, according to a diocese spokesman. “The settlement here will be as much help financially as we can offer to claimants,” the spokesman, Dan Bartleson, told NBCNews.com. “And the bankruptcy puts us in a place at the diocese where we can care for the Catholics who are currently part of the church.” The hundreds of lawsuits claimed that clergy members had abused children from the 1940s to 1980s that the diocese covered up. “It’s widespread … (and) some of the most horrific abuse we’ve dealt with,” Dan Fasy, an attorney with law firm Kosnoff Fasy, which represents 268 of the 362 claimants, told NBC News. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Montana would supervise the disbursement of $15 million if the Chapter 11 protection is approved.