SSPX ‘Horror’ Trial: Superior Knew, Kept Predator in Ministry

News: World News
by Christine Niles  •  •  June 1, 2023   

Fr. Pierre de Maillard is on trial for abusing 27 children

You are not signed in as a Premium user; you are viewing the free version of this program. Premium users have access to full-length programs with limited commercials and receive a 10% discount in the store! Sign up for only one day for the low cost of $1.99. Click the button below.

VENDÉE, France ( - The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) knew of abuse allegations against a priest but kept him in ministry and failed to report him to police. 

Father Pierre de Maillard is on trial in La Roche-Sur-Yon, in western France, accused of abusing 27 children over the course of 25 years. Some are likening the trial to a "horror film" because of the facts revealed during victim testimony.

"We had moments of nausea," said attorneys for the victims.

Maillard is being charged with four counts of rape and 33 counts of sexual assault. While he denies the rapes, Maillard has admitted to the sexual assaults.

The priest would offer massages, with oil and soft music, to relax his victims before assaulting them. His modus operandi likely came from his habit of frequenting prostitutes in massage parlors in Cholet.

He would also make his victims watch pornographic videos. One of his favorite sites was "666porn," referencing the number of the beast in the book of Revelation.

They knew and hid it. They told the victims to keep quiet because it would discredit the Society.

In the second week of trial, outside the courtroom, an alleged victim confronted SSPX French district superior Fr. Benoît de Jorna, who exercised oversight over the priest.

"I reported the events to you back in 2017," said the abuse victim. "Why did nothing happen? I don't understand."

De Jorna dismissed the question: "All you had to do was file a complaint."


De Jorna was called to testify as a witness at trial. According to French journal Ouest-France, "[T]he lively exchange with one of the trial victims during the break raises the question: Could the Society have done better in this case?"

"I have a real feeling of bitterness," said the victim who confronted de Jorna.  "We're not talking about one blunder but three" — referring to other allegations reported to the SSPX and not taken seriously.

"They knew and hid it," said other victims of Maillard. "They told the victims to keep quiet because it would discredit the Society. But for them, it's the Society that will save the Church, and it's the Church that will save the world. Many continue to remain silent because of this."

"Perhaps we should have opened the umbrella earlier and reported the facts, even the most minor ones, to the judicial authorities," said victims' attorney Lionel Béthune de Moro. "One thing is certain: If the priest had been arrested earlier, there would have been fewer plaintiffs at trial."

No Independent Oversight

Fr. Benoît de Jorna

De Jorna has been criticized for lack of transparency, refusing to open SSPX clergy archives — unlike other dioceses and communities in France — to the 2019 French commission investigating clerical sex abuse.

That investigation turned up nearly 300,000 victims of clerical abuse over the course of 50 years in France. The full number, however, is unknown because the SSPX refuses to reveal the number of abusers in its own ranks.

De Jorna is a high-ranking priest, ordained by SSPX founder Abp. Marcel Lefebvre and former rector of the seminary in Écône, Switzerland. He has rejected the idea of independent oversight for the Society.

"The Church being a perfect society, it has all the means to solve its own problems," he told media at the time. "However, with the Sauvé report [on priest sex abuse], it appealed to an authority external to it."

"The priest is another Christ, deference to him is just," he insisted.

Fr. Lauren Ramé

That deference and refusal to submit to independent oversight, however, have led to well-documented instances of clerical sex abuse and cover-up — including in this most recent case involving Fr. Maillard.

Father Laurent Ramé, assigned to the chapel in Saint-Germain-de-Prinçay, where most of Maillard's abuse occurred, is also accused of knowing and doing nothing — even as he blamed Maillard for "manipulating" him.

"I trusted him. He had the image of a man straight in his boots, perfectly rigorous, who even corrects you when you say a bad word," said Ramé when he took the stand. "You'd never expect that from someone like him. He manipulated us so much."

Former parishioners, however, have told Church Militant Ramé is not innocent. 

"[T]he de Maillard incident is NOT the first time that sex abuse has been in the chapel in the Vendée and ... Ramé and his superiors know this very well," one source with knowledge said.

2013 Ban on Access to Children

Bp. Bernard Fellay

During trial, it was revealed that in 2013, over "minor" incidents with children, the SSPX placed a ban on Maillard from being around children.

According to victims' attorney Hugues de Lacoste Lareymondie, he was "banned for 10 years from ministering in a school, in a children's or teenagers' camp, and from confessions outside a closed and public confessional, and banned for five years from catechizing children and teenagers, alone or in groups."

The Society, however, never followed through on the ban, which led to further abuse from the priest.

De Jorna was quick to note that he re-imposed the ban in 2019, forbidding Maillard from visiting families' homes. He said nothing, however, of banning Maillard's access to children at the chapel, either in confession, in the sacristy or during Mass.

The SSPX has a track record of failing to follow through on its bans of predator priests, leading to further victimization of children.

Fr. Frederic Abbet

As Church Militant has reported, it was owing to then-Superior General Bp. Bernard Fellay's transfer of Fr. Frederic Abbet to a Belgian chapel that he was able to abuse boys again. Fellay had actually lifted a 10-year ban on Abbet from access to children, moving him to the Belgian priory within two months of the ban. Abbet then went on to molest boys as young as six, before being tried and convicted in a Belgian court. 

Fellay also lifted a ban on Fr. Philippe Peignot, accused of abusing multiple young boys. It was not until the Vatican in 2013 ordered that Peignot be investigated that the SSPX launched a canonical trial against him. Peignot then left the SSPX to join Bp. Richard Williamson's SSPX Resistance.

Senior priest Fr. Patrick Groche, who turned the Gabon, Africa mission into a predator's playground, has also been banned from access to children. When confronted by one of his victims in Lourdes, however, it was clear Groche had access to altar servers and was allowed to be alone with boys in confession.

In a number of cases, accused predators were merely transferred to new assignments, where they went on to abuse again. 

Conflict of Interest

Hugues de Lacoste Lareymondie

In the face of accusations of SSPX cover-up, Lareymondie was quick to defend the Society.

"This is Fr. Pierre de Maillard's trial, not the Society's," he said. 

Lareymondie, educated by and raised in the SSPX, has represented the SSPX in prior cases. This has led critics to blast what they are calling a conflict of interest.

"Given that he acted for the SSPX in his legal capacity on several occasions, his independence vis-à-vis the SSPX is close to zero," says Lareymondie's former classmate, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity to protect his family.

In fact, three of the victims, concerned over Lareymondie's loyalty to the SSPX, refused to allow him to represent them, instead choosing de Moro as their sole attorney.

"It's not the first time the SSPX has tried to whitewash itself by 'lending' victims one of 'its own' lawyers," the source noted, recalling the case of Fr. Christophe Roisnel, convicted of raping and torturing three teachers at an SSPX academy.

Roisnel was encouraged by the SSPX to hire one of its own attorneys at trial, and the SSPX also lent an attorney to Roisnel's victims.

"The SSPX is just impenitent and outright disingenuous, as it is now trying to repeat the dirty trick it played in the Roisnel trial," he added. "Such brazen people!"

Roisnel was sentenced to 19 years in prison, a sentence he is serving out now.

"Mister de Lacoste Lareymondie does not specialize in criminal law and is located in a region other than that in which the trial is taking place," said Benjamin Effa, spokesman for the SSPX Victims Collective, in comments to Church Militant. "In a case of this importance, in an assizes court, one would expect the plaintiffs to call on a highly reputed lawyer."

"This means that he has been strongly recommended and advised ... by the SSPX," he noted. "We know that the SSPX has a lot of influence on families, most of whom still seem to trust it. They have therefore chosen this lawyer, one of the Fraternity's closest advisors."

Noting that the other victims' attorney, Lionel Béthune de Moro, is indeed a renowned lawyer in criminal law: "This supports the point that Mr. Lareymondie's presence is not really understandable, unless he has been very strongly recommended by the Society."

Lareymondie is featured in a video produced by the SSPX and sponsored by its Paris chapel, St-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet.

It would be very clever if it weren't so vicious.

Effa also noted the Society's strategy in this case:

The SSPX is a plaintiff in the trial, so it is being treated as a "victim" of de Maillard, who is alleged to have abused its trust. As the Society is also a "victim," it is not in the dock, and there is no possibility of claiming a conflict of interest on the part of Mr. de Lacoste Lareymondie. It would be very clever if it weren't so vicious.

"The Society's entire strategy will consist in focusing the trial on de Maillard and his crimes while obscuring its share of responsibility," Effa added.

He stresses that SSPX abuse is not the case of just "a few bad apples."

"If these were isolated cases, the Collective wouldn't exist," he told Church Militant, going on to add:

Our work, our research, our many contacts, and the work of numerous media (Church Militant being the first among them) show that these are not isolated cases. There are many cases of pedophilia, all over the world (we have received testimonies from 5 continents!), and the reactions of the SSPX leaders are always the same, inadequate, and at best result in the relocation of the predator, who will abuse victims elsewhere. 

To those who do not believe in this systemic nature, we say: "There is none so blind as the one who does not want to see."

The SSPX refuses to say whether it has used donor money to pay for attorneys to defend pedophile priests. Neither has it answered requests to launch a victims' compensation fund.

The public prosecutor is expected to deliver her closing address on Friday. Attorneys for both sides will offer closing arguments, with Maillard the last one to take the stand. The jury will be given time to deliberate, and a verdict is expected over the weekend.

Church Militant requested comments from SSPX Superior General Fr. Davide Pagliarani, Bp. Fellay, General Secretary Fr. Christian Thouvenot, Fr. de Jorna and Fr. Ramé, but received no response.


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines

Loading Comments