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After the pope's recent restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, a number of people are considering running to the Society of St. Pius X. But Church Militant's Christine Niles details why it's not the safe haven people think it is.
Fr. Jürgen Wegner: "To me, of what I know, there might be anything between, let's say, five and 200 cases of abuse."
Those are the words of the former U.S. district superior for the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Jürgen Wegner, in secretly recorded audio that’' been turned over as evidence to law enforcement. Whether he's referring to up to 200 abuse cases here in the United States (where there are only about 50 Society priests) or worldwide (with 680 Society priests) remains unclear. Either way, it's a disturbingly high number.
Among the credibly accused priests is Fr. Pierre Duverger, a priest from France who now lives in the United States and runs St. Thomas More Academy near Orlando, Florida, in charge of multiple children — in spite of abuse allegations. Among those claims: a young European woman who was only 12 at the time she received counseling from Duverger.
Grooming victim: "Sometimes he asked if I looked at myself in the mirror while naked. And always saying one day I’ll fall in love and make love.”
He also asked her probing questions about masturbation and other explicit sexual details.
She’s not the only one.
Multiple young women have accused him of grooming and abuse, but the scandal lies in the way leadership chose to ignore and cover up his misconduct.
After a 2007 rape allegation involving a different victim in Bordeaux, France, former superior general Bp. Bernard Fellay yanked Duverger from his assignment and hid him away in a remote monastery in Silver City, New Mexico, before reinstating him to priestly ministry — and actually giving him a promotion as personal secretary to the U.S. district superior, one of the largest SSPX territories in the world.
Unsurprisingly, Duverger would go on to be dogged by sex scandals here in the United States with other young women alleging grooming and sexual assault.
Father Wegner admits he never launched a formal investigation into allegations.
Victims' Advocate: "If this was a teacher in any regular public school, they'd have been fired, terminated and sent to the cops right away. End of story."
Fr. Jürgen Wegner: "In a certain way, I don't want to defend Fr. Duverger, and I will not."
To this day, Fr. Duverger ministers freely in Florida, with easy access to children and vulnerable young women.
Father Duverger remains one of the priests under criminal investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.