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Those who attentively read the Society of Saint Pius X's (SSPX's) response to recent reports by Church Militant will, if they keep the full text of those reports in mind, be as struck by its failure to attempt a refutation of certain allegations as Sherlock Holmes was by the dog who didn't bark in the night, and whose passivity showed that the criminal wasn't a stranger to him.
In a text of no less than 14 paragraphs and nearly 1,000 words not so much as a single sentence even questions, let alone denies, the information which Church Militant provided on the Nazi sympathies of Fr. Ramon Angles, a leading priest of the SSPX.
To call this omission the most shocking aspect of the SSPX response would not be unreasonable. Flimsy as the response's defense of SSPX handling of sexual abuse might seem, it at least tried to give the impression that serious efforts are made to combat evil of such gravity.
Failure to address the allegations against Fr. Angles suggests either that those who composed the response knew them to be accurate, that they unthinkingly disregarded the allegations due to a failure to appreciate their seriousness or worse. Those with more extensive knowledge of the SSPX will not, however, find this omission shocking at all.
Father Angles' relatively little-known sympathy for the Nazis and former SSPX member Bp. Richard Williamson's notorious denial of the Holocaust is not just the tip of a larger iceberg but almost to be expected in an organization founded by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre.
The WWII-era regimes he favored had been been "pragmatically" and sometimes informally aligned with Hitler, were authoritarian and quasi-fascistic while opposed to domestic Nazi takeovers and significant elements of Nazi ideology, unfavorable to German expansion into most regions but willing to accept it when it occurred, contributing forces to Hitler's war against Soviet Russia (freeing up German troops for use elsewhere) while refusing to initiate hostilities against the Western Allies.
Simplistically tarring Lefebvre as a "Nazi sympathizer" would be inaccurate. Saying he was willing to turn a blind eye to such sympathies and saw "pragmatic" collaboration with Nazi Germany as legitimate is another matter. Evidence shows such a contention to be a matter of fact rather than of speculation.
One former superior of the American district of the SSPX, Fr. Hector Bolduc, verified in a letter to a Mr. Thomas Case that he had once had to correct a priest of the district, Fr. Gregory Post, for wearing elements of a Nazi uniform at an airport, that when the two discussed the matter Fr. Post showed him his collection of Nazi artifacts and that when he informed Lefebvre of the matter, the archbishop's response was to shrug and say "what can one expect, that's Gregory."
Post was ordained in 1972 as one of the first priests of the SSPX (and its first American priest) at a time when membership was small and its handful of seminaries personally known by Lefebvre.
Precise documentation of other cases in which Lefebvre overlooked such attitudes is hard to find, but the sheer multiplicity of their presence within the SSPX suggests a general attitude of indulgence.
Richard Williamson, for example, also among the seminarians whom Lefebvre was able to know fairly well, was made a seminary rector seven years after ordination as a priest and was later consecrated by Lefebvre as a bishop.
Almost exactly one year after Lefebvre's illicit episcopal consecrations, an eight-year search for the notorious war criminal Paul Touvier came to an end when police found the man at a French residence for priests of the SSPX, some of whose members had long aided his efforts to remain in hiding.
Having deserted the French army during Hitler's 1940 invasion, Touvier joined the Milice, a paramilitary organization run by France's collaborationist Vichy government and known for its use of torture, summary killings and other brutal tactics against opponents of the regime, and whose members took an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler.
Touvier worked under the direction of Klaus Barbie, one of the more notorious Gestapo agents known as the "butcher of Lyons." He directly ordered the murder of seven prisoners, was in the chain of command responsible for the murder of at least two other people and took part in the deportation of Jews to concentration camps.
Either the activities of SSPX members on behalf of this man were kept secret from Lefebvre, despite being carried out right under his nose, or he was willing to tolerate them.
Incidents of such a nature have not, as some might imagine, ceased with the departure of Bp. Williamson from the SSPX.
In 2001, Austrian SSPX priest Fr. Florian Abrahamowicz gave a public address honoring men who died as soldiers of Mussolini's "Republic of Salo," an action of even greater severity than most Americans will realize. Mussolini entered the war only as de facto dictator. Officially he was prime minister under King Victor Emmanuel III, subject to removal by the Grand Council. After king and council removed him, arrested him and took Italy out of the war, Hitler broke him out of jail and created the Republic of Salo as a puppet state for him to rule.
In 2006, this same priest praised former SS officer Erich Priebke, one of two men who commanded the March 1944 Ardeatine Massacre in which 335 people were killed — five because they had accidentally been put in the same trucks as those selected for death and murdered to prevent word of the event from spreading.
Abrahamowicz was not expelled from the SSPX until 2009, and then only for "disciplinary reasons."
Over four years after that expulsion, the SSPX held a funeral Mass for Priebke after the Vatican had forbidden Catholic churches to do so. The superior of the Italian district of the SSPX defended its defiance of the directive on the grounds that Proebke could not be considered an unrepentant sinner, as he had regularly gone to confession, regretted the deaths of those murdered and condemned mass murder of Jews as immoral.
What the district superior failed to mention was that many people who live in adulterous "civil marriages" go to confession regularly and that, in an interview not long before his death, Priebke insisted he was not responsible for the murders and had merely been following orders, denied that the Holocaust had taken place, referred to the war crimes proceedings at Nuremberg as "show trials" and, when asked if he considered himself a Nazi, made evasive statements about "loyalty to our past," "what still determines my sense of honor" and the fact that "National Socialism perished with the defeat of Germany and today there is no longer any prospect of its continuation."
For Church Militant's position on the SSPX, please see our resource page.