MONTGARDIN, France (ChurchMilitant.com) - Days after Church Militant broke the news that longtime SSPX priest Fr. Pierre de Maillard was suspended for allegedly abusing more than a dozen victims, he has been arrested in France and taken into custody to await criminal trial.
According to French media, officials in La Roche-sur-Yon in the Vendée made the announcement Thursday (in the Catholic calendar, the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church).
"Indicted by the investigating magistrate, he was remanded in custody" Wednesday, according to the prosecution's statement, after first being arrested Monday.
According to French law, police may arrest a person and keep him in custody for a maximum of 48 hours. They are required to release the suspect if no charges are pressed. Thus, Maillard was initially arrested on Monday, detained for 48 hours, and then transferred to another jail Wednesday after charges were handed down.
He was found in Montgardin, approximately 10 hours' drive east of La Roche-sur-Yon. Maillard was staying at an SSPX retreat house nicknamed the "Golden Prison," known to house problem priests.
A priest of nearly 30 years, he had been sent to Montgardin earlier this summer to serve out a period of "prayer and penance" after the allegations of abuse arose — the typical modus operandi of the Society, which has taken the same course of action with numerous sexual predators. Many are reinstated to active ministry, where they often go on to abuse again — unless the law gets involved.
According to the prosecution's statement, Maillard has been charged for "rapes by a person in authority, rapes of minors under 15 years of age and sexual assaults on minors under the age of 15 and over 15 by a person having authority and corruption of minors committed between January 1, 2006 and May 31, 2020 in Vendée and Charente-Maritime," in western France.
Le Dauphiné Libéré, a newspaper in wide circulation in Gap, where Montgardin is located, reported that the judicial investigation was launched Wednesday.
Two complaints against the 53-year-old priest had been filed in July. As Church Militant first reported, Fr. Laurent Ramé, Maillard's former superior at Our Lady of the Rosary priory in Saint-Germain-de-Prinçay, Vendée, went to police this summer after parents of alleged victims came to him to report abuse.
Ramé bucked SSPX protocol and chose not to go to French district headquarters first (as mandated by Society guidelines) and instead went to law enforcement (the brigade de gendarmerie in Chantonnay). Afterwards Ramé informed district headquarters in Suresnes, just outside Paris.
The matter already in police hands, Superior General Davide Pagliarani had little choice but to suspend Maillard, quietly sending him to Montgardin during his suspension. Most of the locals had no idea an accused sexual predator was living in their community.
"The aggressor must pay," said Fr. Ramé to local media.
Bishop Georges Colomb of La Rochelle expressed "great sadness for the young victims and their families," according to the report.
When Church Militant published the Oct. 10 report breaking the news about Maillard's suspension and the criminal investigation, a French translation of the article was published simultaneously and sent to multiple local and national French media outlets, which immediately expressed an interest in the story.
Church Militant has also learned that the French article was posted that same day on Le Forum Catholique, a French traditionalist website with Catholics of all stripes, from the SSPX, FSSP, ICK and other groups. But by Sunday, the site had pulled the report — but not before it had been clicked on more than 300 times.
"Then another message was posted in the same thread complaining about censorship on the Forum Catholique and naming the source of the erased report as Church Militant, although it didn't provide a link this time," said a reliable European source who frequents the site. "This other message was eventually redacted and even the mention of Church Militant was removed."
"Then other messages appeared saying this censorship was ridiculous because anyone could surf to Church Militant or L'Envers du Décor or AVREF and find out about sex abuse in the SSPX," the source added. "Eventually, the Forum Catholique was taken offline for a while and the whole thread was removed, maybe under pressure from Suresnes/Menzingen."
Another reliable source in Europe who also frequents the forum told Church Militant: "There was no more closing Pandora's box: Word was spreading fast, via private e-mails, Facebook accounts, texting/SMS's etc. Sunday afternoon must have been a nightmarish day for the heads of the SSPX's French branch."
"Worst of all, as the news started spreading on Saturday evening, they were short of time to discuss what to do next and to deliver a warning from the pulpit at the Sunday Masses," the source continued. "It was a worst-case scenario for them."
Last week Church Militant wrote to SSPX headquarters asking if leadership had known of prior allegations against Maillard during his priesthood, and how the Society handled them. In spite of the Society's recent pledges of transparency, they offered no response.
While the SSPX website is busy reporting on Vatican scandals, it makes no mention of this disturbing scandal in its own ranks. And Superior General Fr. Davide Pagliarani carefully avoids the topic of sex abuse altogether in an Oct. 14 interview, focusing instead on criticism of Rome and other matters.
In light of Maillard's arrest and the stunningly high number of victims (many of them prepubescent), the SSPX will likely be forced to issue a public statement soon with its requisite "We will fully cooperate with authorities" message.
Maillard is being held in pre-trial detention until trial begins.
Reports will be forthcoming as more details emerge.