Horrifying, sickening, infuriating…
Report: Rampant Sex Abuse and Cover-Up by SSPX Clergy
UPDATES 23-APR-2020 18:39 UTC:
- SSPX United States District responds to Church Militant report
- Sedevacantist and former SSPX member Bp. Donald Sanborn comments on SSPX scandal (video)
UPDATE 23-APR-2020 19:44 UTC:
UPDATE 24-APR-2020 03:00 UTC:
This is not a happy post to write. Contrary to what some will say, we’re not publishing this write-up because it’s a golden opportunity to slam the Society of St. Pius X. While we strongly oppose the Lefebvrist SSPX, we do so on theological grounds and not out of personal animosity. We delight in refuting their theological errors, as we have done on this web site time and again and will continue to do in the future — we do not delight in having to report the sickening story that follows, which has ruined many souls and families.
To be clear: With regard to theology, Novus Ordo Watch strongly opposes both Michael Voris’ Church Militant, which has uncovered this great scandal, and the Society of St. Pius X. Indeed, when E. Michael Jones did an exposé on Michael Voris’ Church Militant, we reported on that as well, and of course we were likewise criticized for it.
Let’s not kid ourselves: This horrific abuse perpetrated by some SSPX priests and laymen will reflect badly on all traditionalist groups, including sedevacantists. The world will not care to distinguish between “Latin Mass groups”. To secularists and even many Novus Ordos, it’s all the same.
Lastly, we must point out in justice that these frightful revelations cannot be taken to mean that all SSPX priests are moral reprobates — that should be obvious. Let the guilty be denounced, tried, and punished; but also let the innocent retain their good reputation and not be lumped in with the rest. Most SSPX priests, one can surely affirm, are morally upright individuals, no matter how wrong their theology and no matter how wickedly some of their confreres, unbeknownst to them, have behaved.
Today, Apr. 22, 2020, the conservative Novus Ordo web site Church Militant has released a substantial report exposing rampant sexual abuse of minors in the Society of St. Pius X, especially in (but not limited to) the United States of America. Although it is clear that Church Militant is virulently anti-SSPX, the report contains so many precise details — not just vague allegations but direct witness testimony, given on camera by people willing to stand by their words with their names and faces, among other things — that one cannot brush this aside as simply an ill-motivated hit piece to discredit the Society.
What is the report’s central thesis? It can be summed up thus: When it comes to committing, enabling, tolerating, and covering up the sexual abuse of youngsters, the Society of St. Pius X is no different than the Vatican II Church. This includes shaming and manipulating victims, moving predators from one location to another, and failing to remove the perpetrators and turn them over to police. To quote from the report directly: “From St. Mary’s Kansas to Eugene Oregon to Post Falls Idaho to Belgium, France, The Philippines and beyond — all around the glob[e], the SSPX has covered up numerous cases of sex abuse over decades, much of it kept hidden because whistleblowers say they are punished and victims shamed.”
Compiled by Church Militant‘s Christine Niles, the report is available as a 47-minute video and as a transcript:
The full transcript of the report can be read here:
We must caution our readers that due to the nature of the subject being reported on, the video and transcript include some sordid details, so please proceed with due caution. At the same time, we urge all readers to read the full report, if for no other reason than to get the complete picture and in order not to rely on mere bits and pieces or on comments from others about this report.
Among the alleged abusers, the report mentions the following names (list is not complete, and not all individuals are accused of the same kind of abuse):
- Fr. Ramon Anglés – subject of criminal investigation by the state authority
- Fr. Pierre Duverger
- Fr. Kenneth Novak
- Fr. Philippe Peignot
- Fr. Christophe Roisnel
- Mr. Peter Palmeri
- Mr. James Simmerman
- Mr. Kevin Sloniker
When Church Militant contacted the Society’s U.S. district office regarding these substantial allegations, someone on the Lefebvrist end made the mistake of copying Church Militant on the correspondence with SSPX district leadership, resulting in Christine Niles receiving communication that was meant to remain internal to the SSPX. Niles writes:
The SSPX was thrown into a panic after Church Militant contacted them with a query about Fr. Duverger.
In their eventual email response, they didn’t realize — until it was too late — that they had accidentally included in the email thread a series of behind-the-scenes emails among leadership strategizing about how to respond to Church Militant. Their emails reveal an organization devoted more to protecting the institution than of concern for victims.
Most of the strategizing came from James Vogel, communications director for the U.S. district for the SSPX. He’s editor-in-chief of Angelus Press, the official publisher of the SSPX.
In an email dated February 24, 2020, Vogel acknowledges to others in the thread — again unaware that Church Militant would see the email — the ugly history of sex abuse in the SSPX: “We cannot issue a blanket denunciation of the accusers and say he [Duverger] is innocent of everything. Church Militant has already dug into some of our ugly cases in France; what if they find out the history here?”
He goes on to say, “We can admit he’s been placed under restrictions, but I still think MOST people will find it bizarre he is allowed to teach/run a school under the circumstances. [It may not be just, I know, but it will be the reaction.]”
After some back and forth with Fr. Wegner, Wegner writes, “Here is it not about mollifying Church Militant. If we go down that road they will judge us as Jassy does. For them, as for Jassy, the only proper outcome would be to have him in a religious prison.”
Making clear their concern is to stem further inquiry, he goes on to ask, “But what is the right middle between saying pretty much nothing and soothing them?”
Vogel responds, “It is an interesting strategy, but it is a kind of deflection … which might not be bad as an interim decision! … Whatever we say or decide: They will respond. … It will not end with Fr. Duverger; Jassy’s claims and contacts will be a veritable ‘gold mine’ for them.”
After all this behind-the-scenes strategizing, the SSPX chose the way of silence, issuing Church Militant a curt response, Fr. Wegner claiming he could not discuss the matter and instead referring us to SSPX attorneys. When Church Militant contacted the attorneys, they also refused to talk.
So in the end, no questions answered, no transparency, total silence.
With this unwittingly self-leaked internal correspondence, the SSPX has maneuvered itself into a corner from which there is no escaping.
To repeat: We are no friends of Church Militant, and for good reason; but in uncovering this horrific sexual abuse within the SSPX, they are heeding the divinely inspired words of St. Paul: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11).
As this scandal is just beginning to make the rounds, Br. Alexis Bugnolo — another man we have great theological differences with — has published his own account regarding sex abuse and the SSPX. God forbid, but today’s report by Church Militant may only be the kick-off to an avalanche of revelations.
This has been a terrible post to write. Nobody “wins” in a matter like this. We must pray for the victims, of course. And we must pray that the many laity in the SSPX, especially children and those whose faith is not strong, will not now be scandalized to such an extent that they give up on religion altogether. Do we want them to give up on the Society of St. Pius X and the false recognize-and-resist position? Of course. But there is a grave risk that, faced with such betrayal and scandal, some souls will be tempted to give up on Catholicism altogether, or even on God Himself. “It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes” (Ps 117:9), Holy Scripture counsels us. Alas, a lot of people put all their trust in specific individuals they have chosen to look up to, rather than in God and His divine promises for His holy Church and His Vicar, the Pope (when there is one).
A final piece of advice to all our fellow-sedevacantists: When talking to SSPXers about how wrong their theological position is, do not use this horrific sex abuse scandal and “rub it in”. They will resent it, and it is intellectually dishonest. The SSPX is wrong, but not because some of its clergy are moral reprobates, but because their theological stance contradicts traditional Catholic doctrine. Just as the scandalous (but true) Popes of the past do not disprove Catholicism, neither do sex abusers in its ranks disprove the SSPX.
It’s Catholic doctrine that refutes the Lefebvrists. Let’s fight our battle there.
Image source: shutterstock.com with SSPX logo added
License: paid and fair use