Become an informed Catholic. Click here to join the fight.
SANFORD, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) currently under criminal investigation for sex abuse in the United States has rape allegations going back more than a decade from France.
Father Pierre Duverger, who now serves as principal of St. Thomas More Academy in Sanford, Florida, was previously assigned in Kansas City, Missouri and would visit St. Marys, Kansas, where alleged incidents of sexual misconduct took place. In spite of knowing of these allegations for several years, the Society has never formally investigated him.
Duverger was ordained in 1995 and comes from a family of SSPX priests, with two brothers and three nephews who are SSPX clergy. His brother, Fr. Patrick Duverger, serves as district superior of the BeNeLux region (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg). Another brother, Fr. Loïc Duverger, served as superior in Africa, where he mishandled the case involving Fr. Damian Carlisle, accused by multiple boys of pedophilia. Father Loïc also served as assistant to the French district superior over the past 20 years, where he was in the shadow of a number of sex abuse cover-ups under French district superior Fr. Régis de Cacqueray.
According to an article in The Angelus, Duverger "is from a family of 11 which had the honor of being a friend of Archbishop Lefebvre's since the 1950s in Africa."
He is among multiple priests under criminal investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), which is looking into the SSPX, along with all Kansas dioceses, as part of its wider criminal probe into clergy sex abuse and cover-up.
In an email dated Dec. 14, 2019, SSPX priest Fr. Hervé de la Tour, speaking of Duverger, admits to whistleblower Jassy Jacas, "We know of several victims already," clarifying in a later email that the allegations go back as early as 2007 or 2008.
That incident, Church Militant has confirmed, involved an ongoing sexual affair with a psychologically vulnerable young woman in Bordeaux, France, engaged to be married to another man.
The situation was first alluded to on a now-defunct website devoted to exposing traditionalist clerics' crimes: "Some traditionalists in the Bordeaux region know the real reasons for the sudden departure of Father D. (SSPX): Instead of teaching a bride the catechism on engagement and marriage, he gave her very concrete lessons on matrimonial relations, with practical exercises."
The website goes on to slam SSPX leadership for later promoting Duverger:
What is a much deeper cause of scandal for souls is how such deviant behavior is followed by promotion. "The fish rots from the head," the saying goes. It is crucial to open your eyes to reality. We have seen it several times: Too often, "traditional" clerics who allow themselves sexual deviations go unpunished for a long time because the faithful idealize the priesthood and are in what is psychologically called "denial": They refuse a priori to admit the possibility that a "good priest" commits sexual offenses.
Duverger, tasked with offering marriage preparation, instead engaged in a sexual affair with the woman that lasted at least several weeks, and was known to the local SSPX sisters whom Duverger served, who complained about their priest's absence from chapel duties because he was spending time with the young woman.
According to a reliable European source, Duverger "cynically exploited the situation of weakness of that girl, who was mentally disturbed and vulnerable."
In French law, Duverger may have committed the crime of abus de faiblesse ("abuse of a vulnerable person"), punishable under section 223-15-2 of the French Criminal Code with up to "three years imprisonment and a fine of €375,000" (~$440,000).
The crime involves taking psychological, emotional or physical advantage of an individual who is vulnerable "due to age, an illness, an infirmity, a physical or psychological deficiency."
When it involves taking sexual advantage of a vulnerable person, it rises to the level of rape, as the person would not truly be capable of consent. Thus Duverger's crime in this case would have been compounded.
Penalties are increased to five years behind bars and €750,000 (~$885,000) if "the offense is committed by the de facto or de jure leader of a group which pursues activities the aim or effect of which is to create, maintain or exploit the psychological or physical subjection of the people who participate in these activities."
When the woman's parents (one of whom was an attorney who on occasion represented the SSPX) discovered Duverger was taking sexual advantage of their daughter, they considered filing a criminal complaint for rape. The family — longtime devotées of the Society — eventually decided not to on the advice of another SSPX priest.
Church Militant has learned that this priest has since come to bitterly regret his counsel after learning of later allegations of sexual assault leveled against Duverger in the United States.
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.
This attempt to handle the matter internally, while consistent with the track record of the SSPX, was a direct violation of French law. According to art. 434-1 of France's criminal code:
For anyone who is aware of a crime whose effects can still be prevented or limited, or whose perpetrators are likely to commit new crimes which could be prevented, failure to inform the judicial or administrative authorities is punishable with three years' imprisonment and a fine of €45,000.
A handful of exceptions are made for spouses, family members, health professionals and social workers, but there are no exceptions for clergy.
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."
Thanks to civil authorities, however, Roisnel was arrested, convicted and sentenced for rape and torture before Fellay could reinstate him to active ministry. The priest is currently serving 19 years behind bars.
Fellay's modus operandi of sending away sex abusers for brief periods of "prayer and penance" before reinstating them to active ministry, where they often go on to abuse again, is typical of the practice of so many bishops before the sex abuse scandal exploded in 2002, when the Boston Globe revealed that Cdl. Bernard Law was shuffling around hundreds of predator priests, after sending them away for brief stints in rehabilitation centers like St. Luke Institute in Maryland or St. John Vianney Center in Pennsylvania.
Those priests would go on to abuse again — and the case is no different with the SSPX.
For instance, pedophile priest Fr. Philippe Peignot was able to abuse again, after the superior general first sent him to do "prayer and penance" at Lourdes before reinstating him to priestly ministry; and convicted pedophile Fr. Frédéric Abbet was also able to abuse boys again, even after the SSPX's own canonical tribunal banned him from being around children — a ban Fellay violated almost immediately by assigning Abbet to live at a chapel that shared the same roof as a boys' dorm.
After the parents sought justice, Abbet was convicted in criminal court and sentenced to five years in prison.
Fellay's actions towards Duverger followed the same pattern, with the same results. Shortly after the sex scandal in Bordeaux, Fellay reassigned Duverger — citing "heart-related" health reasons — to Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in New Mexico, where he served out two years in "prayer and penance."
In 2010, Fellay promoted Duverger to the role of personal secretary to then-U.S. District Superior Fr. Arnaud Rostand in Platte City, Missouri, U.S. headquarters of the SSPX.
At some point he was assigned to the communications team for the U.S. district, working alongside James Vogel and Louis Tofari — a surprising promotion considering the rape allegations.
In 2011, only three year after the sex scandal, Duverger was allowed to officiate as assistant priest at the first Mass of his nephew, Amaury Graff. In a strange twist of irony, Graff was assigned to Bordeaux after his uncle, Fr. Duverger, left — and once there was disturbed to learn of his uncle's affair with the young woman.
In the United States, Duverger spent time serving at Assumption Chapel in St. Marys, Kansas, where he would hear confessions and reportedly prey on vulnerable young women, going on to allegedly sexually assault them. Several of his accusers have been interviewed by the KBI.
On April 30, Church Militant sent the following queries to Fr. Jürgen Wegner, current U.S. district superior:
Hello. I'm requesting an answer to the following questions:
Is it true that you are transferring Fr. Pierre Duverger to a new assignment? This is what we have heard.
If so, where?
Your public statements claim you are committed to transparency. Will you send Fr. Duverger back to Kansas to be questioned by authorities who are investigating him as part of their criminal investigation?
Why did St. Thomas More Priory publish a statement falsely claiming Duverger was not under criminal investigation?
Why did that same statement give the impression that Duvergerwas entirely innocent?
As proof of your commitment to transparency, will you publicly issue a statement admitting that Fr. Duverger is under criminal investigation and that you know of several allegations against him (as you have already admitted in private emails)?
Church Militant never received a response.
While Duverger remains principal at St. Thomas More in Sanford, Florida, Church Militant has learned that several families will not be returning in the new school year because of Duverger's continued presence there and their unhappiness with the way Society leadership has handled his case.
Church Militant has confirmed that at least two teachers have quit over Duverger.
Father Wegner, who admitted to Jacas that he never investigated allegations of abuse against Duverger, is being reassigned to Austria.