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SHERBURNE CTY, Minn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is pleading guilty to sex crimes involving his 9-year-old niece.
On March 3, in the 10th Judicial District Court of Sherburne County, Minnesota, Fr. Matthew Everette Stafki entered a guilty plea for one count of criminal sexual conduct. The guilty plea was the result of a plea bargain with the prosecutor, who agreed to drop the remaining charges.
Stafki had originally been charged with four offenses: three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of using electronic communication to describe sexual conduct with a child. In spite of admitting to the abuse to law enforcement, Stafki had originally entered not guilty pleas — a common tactic of criminal defense attorneys in the early stages of prosecution.
According to court documents, the crimes occurred from approximately Jan. 1, 2019 through May 25, 2022 — a period of more than three years.
Stafki could be facing up to 25 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for June 23.
As Church Militant previously reported (warning: explicit content), the complaint notes that Stafki would visit the victim's home in Princeton and "would sometimes stay overnight." During his visits, he would touch the victim's breasts and genitals, kissing both areas.
"On one occasion, he told her to just enjoy the feeling of it," the complaint states. She remained silent about the abuse because the priest, her uncle, "told her more than once not to tell anyone."
The victim said one time Stafki had her "sit on top of him, facing him, and he would rub his genitals against hers."
"Victim stated the conduct happened multiple times and would usually end when someone knocked on the door to her room or the defendant heard someone come downstairs," the document continues. "Victim also stated the defendant showed her a video on his phone of a nude female rubbing against a nude male. She stated he showed her the video while they were laying (sic) on her bed."
A credible source who spoke with Church Militant explained that in summer of 2022, the victim broke down and told her father about the abuse. The father, Stafki's brother, confronted Stafki, who confessed "he had given into lust and had been doing things he shouldn't do."
Stafki afterwards admitted the abuse to police.
Stafki is listed as a staff member at the SSPX chapel St. Mary's Assumption Church in St. Louis, Missouri in 2020. He also taught religion to children ages 5–9 at Queen of the Holy Rosary School during the 2020–21 school year, also run by the SSPX. He would teach during the week, then travel back home to Minnesota on the weekends.
This was the same time period when he was abusing his 9-year-old niece.
Parents were never told of the allegations against Stafki, nor were they informed that his victim was in the same age range as their own children. They discovered by accident.
Many parents were outraged. They inform Church Militant that the SSPX has never launched an investigation at the school to determine whether other children may have been victims.
"I'm in utter shock," said one parent to Church Militant.
She described the cavalier attitude of the school principle and chaplain of the SSPX chapel when parents came to him with concerns:
One of the mothers said that she was just as shocked as I was, only months earlier, and went straight to the Pastor/Principal. Who then "assured her that he was a loner and never alone with any of the children. He even ate lunch in his car." I'm sorry but how can he "assure" us of anything unless he was watching Stafki? And if he was watching Stafki ... why?
She added, "This whole situation is very unsettling to say the least. It just screams fishy all over! I hope whoever is in charge decides to investigate because there is definitely something going on."
Stafki is being represented by Stephen Jankowksi, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis.
According to his website, "He has represented people charged with serious crimes including rapes, attempted murders, drug and controlled substances charges, theft, assaults, dui, dwi and many other crimes."
Jankowski was found guilty of violating Minnesota campaign laws in 2005, distributing material about a political candidate that he knew was false. He was forced to pay $3,000 in penalties.
The Society won't answer questions as to whether it is paying for Stafki's criminal defense. Numerous queries sent to U.S. District Superior Fr. John Fullerton, spokesman James Vogel and SSPX attorneys Dan Lane and Eric Frankovitch have gone unanswered.
In a Nov. 10, 2022 public statement, the Society styled Stafki's pedophilia as "grave crimes against chastity regarding a minor."
The statement also claims the SSPX "alerted both civil and canonical authorities immediately after it was made aware of the allegations."
It refuses to answer questions, however, as to why it placed Stafki — at the time only 31 years old — on extended sabbatical in 2019, and whether that decision was related to prior allegations of abuse.
The Society has a lengthy track record of quietly sending abusive priests away rather than warning the flock about them. Former Superior General Bp. Bernard Fellay transferred numerous accused predator priests to new assignments, in some cases fabricating the reasons why. Some of those priests went on to abuse again.
Current Superior General Fr. Davide Pagliarani also quietly sent away senior priest Fr. Patrick Groche in 2020, who confessed to abusing underage victim Claude when he was 16 years old in the SSPX Gabon mission in the 1980s. The story was first covered in Church Militant's Spotlight: SSPX — Black Trads Matter.
Victims have accused another priest, Fr. Damian Carlile, of also abusing boys in Gabon. He, too, was quietly sent away by Bp. Fellay to another location — New Zealand — where Carlile reportedly abused again.
Critics have blasted the SSPX for lack of transparency. In spite of repeated requests from victims, the SSPX refuses to publish a list of credibly accused or convicted clergy, unlike almost every diocese or religious organization in the world.
The SSPX was the sole community in France, aside from the Bayonne diocese, that refused to open its clergy archives to investigators during the country's massive clergy sex abuse probe launched in 2019.
When asked to comment on its refusal, French District Superior Fr. Benôit de Jorna criticized the commission, claiming it was "not a legitimate request." He failed to explain how it lacked legitimacy.
The timing of the SSPX statement on Stafki — three days after Church Militant broke the news — has also led to further criticism from the traditionalist community, with some saying it was merely damage control.
I can't help but notice the date on the SSPX press release where they apparently "come clean" with "full transparency" — November 10, 2022.
After the ChurchMilitant exposé
After the CathInfo thread discussing the aforementioned exposé, a thread with 89 replies and 2,770 views!
Can you say, "The cat is out of the bag"?
It's almost like it wasn't their choice, that the SSPX were reluctantly forced to make a public acknowledgement of this.
How much do you want to bet that if Church Militant had gone belly up 2 months ago, and CathInfo had also shut down for some reason last month, that there would be no SSPX press release today?
A later response by a member states, "Well, you hit the nail on the head. They came out with a statement this afternoon because they got caught trying to cover it up."
I simply cannot come to terms with anyone being THAT STUPID ... I'm talking low-grade moron level. If they are this stupid, people need to run far away as quickly as they can from this organization. If they are not this stupid, then ... people need to run far away as quickly as they can from this organization, because this means there are sex criminals in the upper levels of SSPX leadership that continue to cover up for the similarly inclined priests.
Stafki was ordained for the SSPX in 2014, at the age of 27. He entered seminary immediately after high school. His first assignment was at Holy Cross Priory in Nairobi, Kenya, where he taught catechism to school-aged children.
"I am in charge of the catechism, teaching the catechists and setting up the program," Stafki said in a 2015 interview. "We feed them and offer them altar boy practices while the girls follow the Sisters, who provide them with slide shows, cooking, and games."
The Society is yet to launch any investigation in Nairobi to find out whether Stafki has victims there. As Church Militant has reported, Society priests have been involved in abuse and cover-up in Africa, particularly in Gabon, the mission founded by Fr. Groche, who was a longtime collaborator with SSPX founder Abp. Marcel Lefebvre.
Stafki's older brother Mark is also a priest of the SSPX.