Home/Rod Dreher/SSPX Abuse Scandal Hits Mainstream Media

SSPX Abuse Scandal Hits Mainstream Media

A priest of the SSPX ( THOMAS LOHNES/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)

About a month ago, I posted about a blockbuster Church Militant story on sexual abuse scandal within the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, in particular in the town of St. Marys, Kansas, where the SSPX has a school and a big community. Church Militant kept writing about it (read all its coverage here), and SSPX answered some of their charges, but I lost track of the back and forth. Now I see that the Kansas City Star has a big report on the allegations and investigation. Excerpts:

For four decades, the Society of St. Pius X has made its home in this northeast Kansas town, its followers coming from across the country to raise their children according to traditional Catholic values.

Now, with attendance at Latin Mass topping 4,000, plans are underway for the breakaway Catholic society to build a $30 million church high on its campus overlooking St. Marys. The Immaculata, the SSPX says, will become the biggest traditional Catholic church in the world.

But something else is underway that threatens to overshadow the jubilation over a new house of worship with enough room to accommodate the ever-expanding flock: A criminal investigation by the state’s top law enforcement agency into allegations of priest sexual abuse.

Read it all. It’s a long story, and it mostly covers horrific ground already reported by Church Militant. Some of you readers didn’t want to believe Church Militant, on the grounds that its editors have an axe to grind with the SSPX. I don’t know anything about hostility between CM and SSPX, but if you were thinking that reporting by CM’s Christine Niles was just tabloid trash, as a couple of you said, you should be aware that the same allegations have now appeared in the state’s biggest newspaper. [UPDATE: Several of you have pointed out that the Star is based in Kansas City, Missouri, which is across the river from the state of Kansas — but that yes, it’s the most influential newspaper in Kansas. — RD]

This excerpt from the KC Star report is infuriating, but typical:

“There’s no benefit of the doubt anymore. This is corruption,” said Jassy Jacas, a St. Marys woman who recently posted details on her Facebook page of what she said was inappropriate behavior by an SSPX priest she had gone to for counseling.

Jacas said she reported her concerns all the way up the SSPX leadership chain starting in 2018 and was assured that action had been taken. But she said she later learned that no investigation was ever conducted and that the priest was serving as principal of an SSPX school in Florida.

… Some SSPX faithful strongly disagreed with Jacas’ actions.

“The SSPX has my support,” wrote one woman on the SSPX Facebook page. “Of course Satan is attacking the true Mass. We need to pray for our clergy.”

Another posted on Jacas’ Facebook page: “I know quite a few priests and never have I suspected them of inappropriate things. If by chance something did happen then why the hell don’t everyone stop posting things and start praying for our priests.”

There are some people who would rather sacrifice young people and vulnerable others than have their idols broken by facing ugly truths. We will have to see what the KBI’s investigation uncovers, but what looks like the refusal of the SSPX to face the truth at the time of the alleged abuse, and deal with it like Christians instead of like mafiosi, now puts the Society’s massive St. Marys project in jeopardy. One reason so many disillusioned traditional Catholics went to the SSPX is because they were seeking a haven from what they regarded as the manifold disorders of the Vatican II-era Catholic Church. They are now discovering that the grave disorders of humanity do not respect theological distinctions. One of the SSPX lay faithful that the Society in St. Marys is accused of protecting is now sitting in jail, having pled guilty to molesting his own children. That’s not something that you can look at and say, “Well, people sin, guess we better pray for our priest,” and just carry on as usual. There has to be a reckoning.

On September 29, 2018, after the McCarrick mess and Archbishop Vigano’s allegations of a cover-up, Father Jurgen Wegner, overseer of the SSPX in the United States, issued this letter to the faithful. It said, in part:

It is against this sorrowful backdrop that I wish to reiterate that the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) takes any and all reports of illicit and illegal behavior on the part of its clergy, religious, employees and volunteers with utmost seriousness. Every report is submitted to a thoroughgoing investigation by the appropriate authorities within the Society and full cooperation is given to all law enforcement and official investigative agencies concerned, particularly when reports involve minor children. Moreover, any priest or religious of the SSPX found guilty of immorality is subject to sanctions under canon law, including removal from active ministry and laicization.

In an effort to forestall the spread of sin within its ranks, the SSPX abides by the Church’s longstanding and prudent prohibition on admitting men harboring same-sex or other unnatural sexual attractions to any of its seminaries, including St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Virginia. If, after admission to either seminary or holy orders, credible evidence is found of immoral inclinations or acts by an individual, said individual is immediately expelled from the seminary and/or the Society. And, if the evidence warrants, the matter is immediately referred to the ecclesiastical and secular authorities.

Not quite sure how they reconcile that stated policy with what happened in Kansas. Thank God that whistleblowers came out, and the secular authorities are investigation. What a shameful thing, though. How can people trust when the leadership says one thing, but does another — and in a matter as grave as the sexual abuse of children?

It has not escaped my notice that St. Marys is the kind of place that could be fairly identified as a Benedict Option community. To be sure, I have never, ever claimed, nor would I ever claim, that you can escape sin. Still, even though I’m no longer Catholic, I do find it particularly painful that this is going on within a community that really is trying to live by traditional standards. It doesn’t negate their aspirations to holiness, including communal holiness, but it does make it harder for people to trust the leadership.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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