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Louise Sorbonne is a globetrotting independent researcher and former SSPX parishioner who submitted this article for consideration after noticing worrying trends in traditionalist media, which are either coming to the defense of the SSPX, in spite of documented evidence of sex abuse and cover-up, or otherwise remaining silent when they have a duty to speak.
"The truth doesn't care about our needs or wants. It does not care about our governments, our ideologies. ... It will lie in wait for all time." -From HBO series Chernobyl
Throughout the early part of the 1990s, the now-defunct Catholic magazine Fidelity published a series of articles chronicling the seedy underbelly of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).
These articles, most of which are still available online, contain a variety of horror stories of bizarre, cult-like behavior, SSPX priests excessively fascinated with Nazis, militia activity, Soviet-style forced medication of dissidents and a general banquet of sadism and cruelty for which a number of members of the SSPX have always been known by Catholics with their pulse on the irregular traditionalist group (anyone who doubts the complete and total absence of charity or even common decency within SSPX diehards need look no further than SSPX supporters' comments on Church Militant's social media accounts).
Fidelity's work did not have a tremendous effect in the Catholic community, simply because it only enhanced what Catholics already knew about the SSPX.
During the latter part of the 20th and early portion of the 21st century, most American Catholics were either divided along the lines of conservative JPII Catholics and liberal Vatican II Catholics — both of whom viewed the SSPX as a schismatic sect that was, at best, a group of very strange people.
For its part, the SSPX in the United States did not attempt to change this image.
Although defending itself against charges of schism and protesting the 1988 excommunications of its bishops, the American wing of the SSPX, under the tremendous influence of Bp. Richard Williamson and the culture he created as rector of the SSPX American seminary, seemed content to dig in and hide out in its chapels and enclaves in St. Mary's, Kansas; Post Falls, Idaho and Walton, Kentucky.
Despite alleged ties to militia groups as well as a long history of ties with various post-World War II manifestations of German National Socialism, the SSPX, for most of its history, could supposedly boast that, unlike the mainstream Catholic Church, it was not plagued by any sex scandals.
This turned out not to be true — but it would take decades for the world to learn that.
Throughout the early history of the group, the majority of SSPX adherents were content to be ignored by the world. Its status as a marginal group changed, however, when Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops in January 2009.
The Holy Father's lifting of the excommunications coincided with a renaissance in interest in traditional Catholicism among young people, as the tidal wave of conservative American Catholic culture inaugurated by Pope John Paul II's 1993 World Youth Day visit to Denver crashed against the 2002 Boston Spotlight revelations, which demonstrated that the reform inaugurated by John Paul was largely a paper tiger.
Many Catholics, disenchanted with conservative Catholicism and its liberal predecessor, began testing the waters with Catholic tradition, and some even found themselves pulled toward the SSPX, whose episcopal leadership was no longer excommunicated.
At the same time, Bp. Williamson's notorious "Holocaust interview" further proved to be a blessing in disguise for the SSPX, for by expelling His Excellency in 2012, the SSPX could claim that they had put their more reactionary past behind them.
The emergence of several splinter groups from the SSPX, known collectively as "The Resistance," who protested the SSPX's overtures toward reconciliation with Rome, further increased the profile of the SSPX, for the Society could claim that all of the "crazies" were migrating out of the SSPX and into these splinter groups.
Spearheaded by Angelus Press editor James Vogel, the SSPX began a massive PR campaign during the Pope Francis era, reaching out to any and all forms of conservative and traditionalist Catholic media, hoping to spin a new image for the formerly marginalized group.
Many believed that these overtures were sincere, and SSPX sincerely desired to enter into full communion with the Church.
However, with the recent tidal wave of media coverage in outlets like Church Militant, Catholic News Agency, The Kansas City Star and others, it now appears the SSPX may have had an ulterior motive in their own PR blitz.
As has been reported by multiple outlets, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has been overwhelmed with claims of abuse by SSPX members not only in the state of Kansas, but throughout the United States. It launched its investigation into the SSPX in 2019, as part of a wider criminal probe into clergy sex abuse. While the SSPX was aware of the investigation in 2019, the public was not — until it was exposed in April of this year.
In the wake of these revelations, some media outlets have come to the defense of the SSPX — or have avoided reporting on the matter altogether.
As the story of the SSPX grows darker and more sinister, a second story has developed: It seems that, in an attempt to get ahead of the news about the KBI criminal investigation, the SSPX tried to effect a media coup at several Catholic journalistic centers.
The first of these Catholic media outlets infected by the SSPX is Catholic Family News (CFN).
While The Angelus is the official SSPX journal, CFN has, under the current editorial direction of Dr. Brian McCall, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, become a de facto SSPX newspaper. Since the recent revelations of systematic abuse and cover-up by SSPX priests and laity, CFN has gone to bat for the SSPX and has attacked those trying to expose the abuse and corruption.
Although allegedly having lost significant readership owing to the decline in print consumption, CFN was once considered among the premier traditional Catholic journals. Headed by the late John Vennari, who himself attended SSPX chapels, CFN was, nonetheless, not originally an SSPX newspaper per se. Vennari, like The Fatima Center's Fr. Nicholas Gruner, had an engaging personality, and much of CFN's following was, in fact, linked to the person of Vennari.
Indeed, much of traditional Catholic culture in the United States, ironically paralleling the JPII conservative Catholics whom the traditionalists despised, is built around personalities.
Following Vennari's death on April 4, 2017, writer and catechist Matt Gaspers succeeded John Vennari as editor. It is important to note that Vennari had handpicked Gaspers to be his successor. For some mysterious reason, little over a year later, Gaspers was demoted to assistant editor and was replaced at the helm of CFN by Brian McCall.
It has been speculated that this was a power play by the SSPX, who regularly advertises in CFN in order to bring it more tightly under their control (possibly in anticipation of the leaking of the KBI investigation) — although loudly supportive of the SSPX now, Gaspers was not initially a member.
McCall is an SSPX loyalist, attending an SSPX chapel in Oklahoma City and supporting SSPX schools. He was associated with what appears to be a now-defunct men's group in St. Mary's called "The St. Joseph's Businessman Association" and has spoken regularly at the Angelus Press Conference, the SSPX's premiere yearly gathering in America.
Under McCall's helm, CFN regularly features (sometimes multiple) monthly columns by SSPX priests and, of course, features ads for various SSPX appendages like their publishing house, Angelus Press, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Unlike some other trad outfits, which have rebranded themselves as more mainstream traditionalist publications and have refrained from defending the SSPX from the avalanche of allegations levied against them, CFN refuses to adapt to the Traditionalism 2.0 of the Francis Era and has shown itself willing to defend the SSPX, no matter the cost.
In addition to CFN, the American wing of the SSPX has also, it is alleged, attached its tentacles to other Catholic media outlets.
The SSPX has even placed what appears to be a mole in LifeSiteNews: Stephen Kokx, who gained attention after Abp. Carlo Mario Viganò responded to some of his public questions, and whose response contained praise of SSPX founder Marcel Lefebvre.
Catholic Family News broadcast Abp. Viganò's remarks on Abp. Lefebvre as an endorsement of the SSPX as a whole — something Church Militant confirmed directly with Viganò it was never his intention to do.
Speaking with the archbishop, he made clear his only intention was to praise Lefebvre for his original vision of protecting tradition and orthodoxy. Viganò had been up to that time unaware of the massive sex abuse scandal embroiling the Society, and under no circumstances would ever condone it or defend it.
But Stephen Kokx, Brian McCall and Matt Gaspers at CFN — with the help of other Catholic media personalities — erroneously touted Viganò's comments as a wholesale embrace and promotion of the SSPX. Even after Church Militant contacted Kokx to correct the record, no clarification was issued by CFN.
Kokx is Assistant Director of Digital Marketing for LifeSiteNews and an author at CFN.
Stephen Kokx appears to have close ties with the SSPX and has written articles praising the Society as a "life raft" for those seeking the sacraments.
Kokx is the author heading up an investigation into the claims of abuse by SSPX members on behalf of LifeSiteNews. His most recent article, the first in a series of reports on SSPX abuse, while seeming to expose abuse in its ranks, also appears to be an attempt to exonerate the Society of wrongdoing.
Indeed, several alleged victims have expressed concerns that Kokx's investigation will be a whitewash, and that his main aim is to help the Society by downplaying abuse and cover-up while calling victims' testimony into question. Some have used the word "harassment" to describe Kokx's questioning.
The fact that Kokx, an apparent SSPX loyalist, is undertaking an "investigation" into abuse in the SSPX is an insult to victims and is an uncharacteristic blemish on LifeSite's otherwise solid reputation.
Kokx, however, is not the only SSPX adherent burrowing into a Catholic media organization. Ironically enough, the assistant editor of Culture Wars, Dave Reilly, also has a cozy relationship with the SSPX.
Reilly initially began his media career working for his father's radio station WHLM in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. He was forced to resign from WHLM after it was revealed that he attended the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.
Following his dox by various leftist organizations, Reilly fled to St. Mary's, Kansas, the SSPX stronghold in the United States, which has been the epicenter of abuse allegations and some of whose members are under criminal investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
After a period of going dark, Reilly then obtained a position working for Dr. E Michael Jones at Culture Wars Magazine in South Bend, Indiana.
Reilly's employment at Culture Wars is curious because, as editor of Fidelity Magazine, Jones exposed the corruption in the SSPX in the 1990s.
In fact, when Church Militant first aired its groundbreaking exposé on the SSPX in April, Reilly threatened to sue Church Militant over 24 seconds of use of some of his SSPX footage. Reilly filed a copyright claim with YouTube, only for YouTube to side with Church Militant and determine that use of the footage in its 47-minute documentary was fair use, a defense against any copyright claims
Is it possible that Dave Reilly, Stephen Kokx and Brian McCall (and perhaps others) are part of a wider preventative, damage-control effort to head off any major journalistic exposé that would reveal to the Catholic world the depths of the corruption in the SSPX?
Although CFN has lost a tremendous amount of influence and reach after the death of Vennari, the other media outlets infected by the SSPX are, if anything, increasing in profile and power during the digital age.
As the tidal wave of allegations against the SSPX began to hit, it would have been smart for the SSPX to neutralize friendly and far-reaching media outlets. However, whatever strong and legitimate criticism might be levied at some of these authors for the alleged complicity in protecting the SSPX, they, at the very least, have the excuse of being dutiful members of the SSPX.
Former members and victims have repeatedly used the word "cult" in reference to the SSPX, as the group demands loyalty above all else, a rejection of those outside the SSPX ("no salvation outside the SSPX" is a common theme) and unquestioning obedience. Those who stray from these are named and shamed, sometimes from the pulpit. Thus far, the above-named authors have proven themselves loyal comrades in service of their collective master.
But such loyalty, to the detriment of truth and justice, inflicts further pain and humiliation on the hundreds of individuals who have had their lives destroyed by the Society.
It is well worth asking why certain traditional media outfits have vigorously defended a Society riddled with abuse, or otherwise why some remain so silent. Could it be that a sizeable portion of their fans, supporters and donors are SSPX loyalists, and they fear backlash as well as loss of donations?
Perhaps worse than these SSPX drones are those Catholic media personalities whom, it is alleged, have sold their souls for SSPX Patreon and PayPal donations. Those personalities (who will remain anonymous, for now) are not members of the SSPX but are, in truth, grifters who have made entire careers bouncing from one fad in the Church to another, always holding out their hand for donations and book purchases from confused, well-meaning Catholics looking for a harbor in the storm.
More than those journalists who have the excuse of being inundated in the collectivist, literally demonic, spiritual poison of the SSPX, these grifters will have to answer to Our Lord on Judgement Day for every lie and deception they peddled or every act of abuse or cover-up they willfully ignored because they lacked the courage to speak out against evil, while they retain their SSPX-friendly fan base on earth.
They will be held accountable, before Almighty God, for their actions.