This article does not intend to delve into the case of Kevin Sloniker — a scandal Church Militant has touched on briefly and plans to examine more closely in future (among our many planned investigations). This is a response to a report written by Stephen Kokx about our investigation into the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
It should be noted that Kokx began his investigation shortly after Church Militant's groundbreaking exposé in April on abuse and cover-up in the SSPX. Church Militant's Spotlight investigation was followed by a devastating string of bad press, from both Catholic and secular media in the United States and abroad, revealing a wideranging criminal investigation of the SSPX for sex abuse and cover-up.
Reports showed a pattern of failing to report abusers to police, sending them away to do brief stints of "prayer and penance" in remote locations before reinstating them to active ministry, where they often went on to abuse again — a pattern followed by dioceses in the United States and all over the world, first exposed on a major scale by Boston Globe's Spotlight team in 2002 led by Walter Robinson, leading to a national reckoning on sex abuse in the Catholic Church in America. The same modus operandi was followed by the SSPX, led for 24 years by Bp. Bernard Fellay.
While the SSPX has been in existence since the 1970s, its own sex abuse problem has largely flown under the radar. A couple of foreign sites — including the Stop Pedos Trad site and Le Livre Noir de la FSSPX ("The Black Book of the SSPX") — did pioneering work to first expose sex abuse and corruption in the Society, leading to enough consternation in Europe that Bp. Fellay threatened to sue the Stop Pedos site — using one of Iceland's largest and most expensive law firms.
Their work should be acknowledged. To them we owe a debt of gratitude.
While their work has been likened by SSPX insiders to missiles launched against Society corruption, Church Militant's reporting has been described as the nuclear bomb. Not only did our reporting offer the first large-scale look into global abuse allegations in the Society, it also opened up lines of communication from victims all over the world, who have contacted Church Militant with many notes of gratitude and relief knowing they are not alone in their suffering. The response from so many worldwide, with more reports of as-yet-unpublished abuse stories, made us realize the depths of the abuse in the ranks of the SSPX are far deeper, wider and broader than most know.
To this day, Fellay — who features prominently in our reporting and whose actions in routinely protecting or promoting sex offenders, placing victims directly in harm's way and lying to victims eradicate any notion of supposed "holiness" in this longtime superior general — has failed to refute a single report we've published. Indeed, he has failed to respond to a single query in the seven months since our first Spotlight aired.
Abbet had actually been convicted in a Belgian court in 2017 but had been roaming free in Switzerland for years, only minutes from Écône, the SSPX's main seminary — with the knowledge of then-Superior General Bp. Bernard Fellay. No one from the Society ever reported his whereabouts to Swiss or Belgian authorities.
It took Church Militant's report, followed by questioning from local journalists, for law enforcement finally to arrest the convicted pedophile priest.
As to Maillard, while he had been under investigation since July for 19 allegations of sex abuse of boys and girls, Church Militant confirmed with local sources that it was Church Militant's publicizing of the allegations and our report on Maillard's whereabouts (he was sent to live in the SSPX's "Golden Prison" in Montgardin in the French Alps — a fact previously unknown to locals in the area, who were angered to learn an accused pedophile was living in their midst) that spurred police to arrest Maillard in October, within days of our report.
Also as a result of Church Militant's reporting and the outcry that ensued from SSPX supporters, the U.S. District established for the first time in its history an "independent" review board to handle sex abuse allegations. (We put "independent" in air quotes because the SSPX has yet to publish members' names, calling into question the actual independence of this board.)
None of this, however, is touched on in Kokx's report, which appears to rely on a 2019 article that only cursorily mentions the Sloniker case. He appears to entirely ignore the approximately two dozen reports featuring eyewitness testimony, correspondence, legal records, transcripts, audio recordings, etc. that have since been published this year.
If Kokx does make mention of them, it's to falsely dismiss them as "the exact same ones that appeared in author E. Michael Jones's Fidelity" or otherwise lifted directly from Le Livre Noir — entirely inaccurate claims. Church Militant's reporting involved testimony from eyewitnesses and victims' family members who speak on the record for the first time, and shed far greater corroborating light on little-known events mentioned in either source.
Otherwise, Kokx casually dismisses Church Militant's in-depth exposés as ones that have "previously been reported on by mainstream Catholic media outlets and some of the abusers have already been sentenced to time in prison and/or removed from the SSPX altogether."
In a single line, he sweeps under the rug numerous incriminating cases implicating Fellay and others in leadership who protected and promoted abusers and allowed victims to be molested under their own watch.
For instance, Kokx ignores the story of Fr. Frédéric Abbet, a case so damning the ruling court accused the SSPX as a whole of fostering "criminogenic" behavior, a French term meaning the enabling of pathologically criminal conduct.
It also led the prosecutor to thunder in court that "The SSPX should have been put on trial!" and not just Abbet.
Three European victims' rights groups issued a scathing joint statement excoriating the SSPX for its failure to help the victims' families, continually putting up roadblocks and obstructing justice while going out of its way to protect the institution. The SSPX was laughed to scorn when it issued a statement at the time claiming it "cooperated with authorities" — a line it repeats to this day, hoping Americans ignorant of their complicity will buy it.
Abbet's abuse never could have happened had it not been for the direct actions of Fellay. In spite of a 10-year ban imposed by the SSPX's own canonical court forbidding Abbet from being around children, Fellay violated the ban within two months, assigning him to live under the same roof as a boys' dorm in Brussels, where Abbet sexually assaulted multiple victims, one as young as six years old.
Kokx also ignores the story of Peter Palmeri, a longtime St. Marys, Kansas parishioner convicted and imprisoned this year after raping his own daughters. He was protected for years by Society priests aware of his conduct, while victims were shamed into silence.
And Kokx dismisses the case of Fr. Philippe Peignot, a pedophile who admitted to abusing Vincent Lambert, the famous French quadriplegic, and who is accused of abusing multiple other young boys, including a victim who spoke directly with Church Militant. The SSPX has never denied that two of its superiors general — Fr. Franz Schmidberger and Bp. Fellay — lifted bans on Peignot, allowing him free access to children for years on end in spite of their knowledge of his pedophilia.
It was only after one of Peignot's victims contacted the Vatican to complain about the SSPX's shocking negligence and inaction that the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered the SSPX to launch a canonical trial against Peignot. In the midst of that trial, Peignot left the SSPX to join Bp. Richard Williamson's Resistance, where he serves to this day — with full, free access to children.
None of these stories apparently warrant any detailed mention by Kokx; he is satisfied with the SSPX's self-serving generalized statements that these unnamed sex abusers "have already been sentenced to time in prison and/or removed from the SSPX altogether." In other words, nothing to see here; move along.
Even more, SSPX sources and victims reached out to Church Militant privately to complain that Kokx had been "harassing" victims with his questioning, impugning their integrity and calling into question their veracity. Kokx himself admits in his article that he had "difficulty" speaking with victims, who did not want to talk with him.
Church Militant was shown his line of questioning, and we agree. The questions did not appear to seek truthful answers, but instead appeared to be attempts to undermine victims' testimony and exonerate the SSPX.
All of this is sufficient to prove Kokx is no serious investigative reporter. But further details serve to make the point more clearly.
Kokx is an SSPX loyalist and writes for Catholic Family News, which receives ad revenue from the SSPX and whose website is fiercely devoted to defending and promoting the Society. Not only does CFN receive money directly from the SSPX, it also receives money from SSPX donors (some of whom are known to be quite wealthy).
CFN is among the traditionalist websites that has refused to denounce abuse in the SSPX — quite the opposite. It has published laudatory pieces over the past seven months praising its founder and the Society as a whole. Thus, his very association with CFN, which is financially supported in part by the SSPX and by SSPX loyalists, calls into question his impartiality.
This is in fact the case with various traditionalist figures and media outfits, which have a large SSPX following and donor base. They know full well that if they breathe a critical word about the Society, they will face vicious backlash from SSPX loyalists — and inevitably lose their donations. It appears to be something they're unwilling to risk.
Just as Catholic establishment media is beholden to the bishops and won't dare publicly criticize them for fear of upsetting the apple cart, so certain traditionalist media take the same approach towards the SSPX.
If what we've written above has not yet convinced the reader of Kokx's lack of impartiality, that Kokx ends his article by posting — without scrutiny — yet another anodyne, self-serving statement by the SSPX, essentially giving them the last word, should serve as the final nail in the coffin of this "investigation."
LifeSite should rename this series "The Sugarcoating of SSPX Abuse."
Also, it's odd that an investigation allegedly into sex abuse in the SSPX would devote an entire segment (under the biased headline "An Ulterior Motive?") scrutinizing not actual abuse and cover-up, but Church Militant itself — a media outfit. This is not how authentic investigations work, and again calls into question Kokx's real motives here.
Authentic investigations focus solely on the abuse and cover-up, and ask tough questions of the clergy in question. Authentic investigations scrutinize the hierarchy who have enabled abuse and cover-up. Authentic investigations question the organization's actions and public statements, and do not simply take them at face value. While we expect liberal or Catholic establishment media to take bishops at their word, we expect a higher standard from orthodox Catholic media, who should be taking a more critical, less naïve approach.
Ironically, while trad media is more than happy to pick apart the words and actions of cover-up Novus Ordo clergy, they bend over backwards to give SSPX clergy the benefit of the doubt with a simplicity and naïveté that would be endearing if it weren't so dangerous.
Several have also used the excuse that they are "not investigative reporters" and don't have the "resources" to look into SSPX abuse claims, in an attempt to justify their cowardly silence. But these excuses never stopped them from spilling endless quantities of ink on McCarrick and other cover-up clergy in the Church. Clearly, they didn't think their lack of "investigative reporting" skills or resources prevented them from weighing in on abuse cover-up in the Novus Ordo Church.
No, what's clear is that a double standard applies in traditionalist media. They gleefully report on corruption in the "Vatican II Church" but are suddenly struck dumb when that abuse arises in their own ranks, finding a thousand reasons why they will not or cannot speak.
It is hypocrisy, pure and simple, because they are a compromised bunch whose silence (or willing defense of the SSPX) makes them complicit in the abuse.
Church Militant can at least say we are equal-opportunity offenders. We widely cover corruption in the entire Catholic world, whether in the Novus Ordo or in traditionalist circles. We play no favorites. We have harshly condemned and exposed sex abuse and cover-up in the Vatican and in dioceses all over the world, paying no heed to whether they offer the New Rite or the Traditional Latin Mass. Abuse is abuse, and it must be exposed and stamped out, and all guilty clergy called to account.
Our only agenda is to expose the truth in the hopes of reforming the Church, the spotless Bride of Christ, so marred by filth perpetrated by the very men called to love Her and serve Her. This will always be our only agenda at Church Militant — something that cannot be said of other compromised media outfits.