KS Clergy Abuse Report: SSPX Still Under Investigation

News: US News
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 9, 2023   

AG confirms criminal probe 'on-going' into Society sex abuse and cover-up

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TOPEKA, KS (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is confirming the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is still under investigation for sex abuse.

On Friday, the KS attorney general's office released a 25-page report summarizing its findings after a four-year criminal probe into the four dioceses of Kansas, along with the SSPX.

"In summary, the task force received and reviewed 41,265 pages of records, received and reviewed 224 tips, interviewed 137 victims of abuse, initiated 125 criminal cases and distributed 30 charging affidavits to the appropriate prosecutors for charging consideration," according to the report.

The KBI 'also reviewed documents related to SSPX and investigated allegations; and those efforts are on-going.'

"Our investigations identified 188 clergy members suspected of committing various criminal acts, to include: aggravated criminal sodomy, rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual battery," it noted.

The report explained that the investigation into the SSPX continues: 

In addition to the four dioceses in Kansas, there is also a break-off sect of the Catholic Church that is found within our state and all over the world. The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is a sect of the Catholic Church located in St. Marys, Kansas whose leadership was previously ex-communicated by the Pope. The CCTF also reviewed documents related to SSPX and investigated allegations; and those efforts are on-going.

Of the 30 charging affidavits the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) sent to various prosecutors' offices, "no prosecutor has filed charges, primarily due to statute of limitation concerns."

The investigation covered half a century, from 1950 to 2022, identifying 400 victims of abuse. It was launched in 2019 at the request of Kansas City-St. Joseph Abp. Joseph Naumann.

The report mentioned the role of Church Militant in aiding the KBI's investigation.

There are a number of organizations involved in supporting victims of clergy abuse and who work to hold accountable perpetrators and those who attempt to conceal clergy child abuse. Some of these anti-clergy abuse organizations engaged by the CCTF include SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), Bishop Accountability, and Church Militant.

No other Catholic media apostolates are named in the report, as none displayed willingness or interest in helping the KBI uncover corruption in the SSPX. In fact, one prominent Catholic media organization published a series of articles attempting to exonerate accused SSPX predators.

SSPX and St. Mary's

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St. Mary's, KS is the center of SSPX abuse and cover-up allegations

(photo: Jill Toyoshiba)

In January 2020, whistleblower Jassy Jacas came forward documenting grooming and abuse cover-up by the SSPX. A series of emails between her and SSPX leadership reveals that the SSPX was aware of credible allegations against Fr. Pierre Duverger, but leadership left him in place as principal of St. Thomas More Academy in Sanford, Florida, without warning parents.

In an email dated Dec. 14, 2019, SSPX priest Fr. Hervé de la Tour, speaking of Duverger, admits, "We know of several victims already." He clarified in a later email that the allegations go back as early as 2007 or 2008.

Emails from then-U.S. district superior Fr. Jürgen Wegner also show he believed Jacas' account of sexual grooming by Duverger, but he lied about measures taken to restrict his access to girls. Contrary to Wegner's claims, Duverger was allowed to lead pilgrimages with young women and hear their confessions alone. The confessional is where he allegedly attempted to groom Jacas.

 


Duverger has been accused by several other girls of sexual grooming and assault, including allegations from around 2008 that he engaged in sexually explicit counseling sessions with a 12-year-old girl in Bordeaux, France, as well as sexual relations with a vulnerable adult he was counseling in preparation for marriage.

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Fr. Jürgen Wegner,

former SSPX U.S. district superior

Church Militant confirmed the woman's father is a prominent attorney in France who has legally represented the Society, but who declined to bring criminal charges in order to protect the Society's reputation.

At the time they became aware of Duverger's offenses, then-superior general Bp. Bernard Fellay and then-French district superior Fr. Régis de Cacqueray failed to report him to police, as required by French law — a violation that can result in up to three years in prison.

Both Fellay and de Cacqueray similarly failed to report SSPX priest Fr. Christophe Roisnel in 2011 when they learned he had raped several women at an SSPX school, instead choosing to send him to a monastery in Morgon in Beaujolais for a couple of years of "prayer and penance."

Following the same modus operandi, Fellay abruptly removed Duverger in the middle of the school year and transferred him to a remote monastery in Silver Spring, New Mexico to do "prayer and penance."

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Bp. Bernard Fellay,

former SSPX superior general

After a year, Fellay promoted Duverger to the office of the U.S. district superior, also making him a part of the communications team. 

To this day Duverger continues to serve as principal of St. Thomas More Academy in Sanford, Florida.

In a June 2021 article written by LifeSiteNews author and SSPX supporter Stephen Kokx, which largely sought to exonerate Duverger, the priest claimed he was "planning" on filing a "defamation lawsuit" against Church Militant. That lawsuit has never materialized.

Leaked audio from a May 2020 phone conversation reveals Wegner is downplaying the number of abuse allegations in the Society: There are "hundreds of cases" of abuse, he admitted to victims' advocate Ruth Parks, in the presence of SSPX spokesman James Vogel.

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Fr. John Fullerton,

current SSPX U.S. district superior

Wegner has since left his post in the United States to return to his native Austria, with Fr. John Fullerton returning to the helm in the U.S. district.

Fullerton himself has been accused of silencing victims and whistleblowers wishing to report Fr. Benedict Van Der Putten, who left the Society after he was accused of sexually assaulting teenaged girls.

Fullerton is now refusing to answer questions regarding the recent criminal charges filed against SSPX priest Fr. Matthew Stafki, who confessed to abusing his 9-year-old niece.

Stafki was placed on indefinite leave in 2019, at the age of 35, and sent back home to Minnesota, where he proceeded to abuse his niece up until last year.

Fullerton will not say why Stafki was placed on indefinite leave or whether he had prior allegations of misconduct.

Fullerton will not say why Stafki was placed on indefinite leave or whether he had prior allegations of misconduct.

The SSPX came under fire for trying to silence witnesses during the KBI investigation when it urged locals not to speak with agents without the presence of a Society lawyer. 

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Fr. Matthew Stafki, SSPX, facing criminal charges for abusing

his 9-year-old niece over the course of three years

"If approached, decline to speak to them without an attorney present," wrote Fr. Scott Gardner to members of the St. Mary's community, going on to order members to make leadership aware if they've communicated with agents: "If you have already spoken to law enforcement, please let us know right away."

"[Y]ou are always entitled to have legal representation at any interview, and all Priests, staff, and employees must insist on this if contacted," Gardner also orders.

"The KBI is investigating allegations of criminal conduct made against the SSPX," said KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood in a statement to Church Militant at the time. "As such, our agents are permitted to question any individuals who we believe may have information related to this criminal investigation."

Witnesses are free to speak with law enforcement with or without lawyers present, and thus critics saw the letter as further evidence of the SSPX's heavyhanded tactics to control and direct the investigation, and prevent witnesses from offering potentially incriminating information.

Sources have told Church Militant pro-SSPX judges in Pottawatomie County (where St. Mary's is located) are stonewalling the KBI investigation.  

The KBI continues to gather tips about sex abuse. Victims, whistleblowers and others with information may contact agents at 1-800-KS-CRIME, or by emailing ClergyAbuse@kbi.ks.gov.


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